A Comparison of Carlin-type Deposits in Nevada and Yukon
Published:January 01, 2013
Greg B. Arehart, Michael Ressel, Rob Carne, John Muntean, 2013. "A Comparison of Carlin-type Deposits in Nevada and Yukon", Tectonics, Metallogeny, and Discovery: The North American Cordillera and Similar Accretionary Settings, M. Colpron, T. Bissig, B. G. Rusk, J. F. H. Thompson
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Carlin-type ores have been reported in various locations around the world, but to date, the major economic deposits have been restricted to the Great Basin of the southwestern United States. Recent discoveries in east-central Yukon have many characteristics of Carlin-type deposits, and hold promise of great potential for new discoveries of economic importance. Both regions share commonalities of geologic history, including initial deposition of Proterozoic-Paleozoic calcareous host rocks on the passive margin of the fragmented Rodinian supercontinent. This was followed by compressional tectonism and continental accretion that included thrust faulting and plutonism through the late Paleozoic and Mesozoic. Many deposits in the Great Basin are associated with post-accretionary magmatism as the tectonic environment shifted to an extensional regime. However, at this early stage of investigation, the timing of mineralization in Yukon is not clear; the deposits may be geologically related to Late Cretaceous post-accretionary plutons. Associated gold skarn-style mineralization is present in both regions. Following mineralization, both regions experienced significant right-lateral transcurrent tectonism on their western margins; no known Carlin-type mineralization is associated with this latest tectonism.
Mineralization in both areas comprises finely disseminated gold associated with arsenian pyrite hosted in calcareous siltstones-sandstones to silty carbonates, although other rock types locally host significant mineralization. Other hydrothermal minerals present in these systems include realgar/orpiment, stibnite, fluorite, barite, and quartz. Temperature of deposition appears to be near 225°C. Hydrothermal alteration consists of decarbonatization, silicification, and argillization. Gold/silver is typically high at 1:1 or higher. Trace elements that show good correlation with gold include thallium, arsenic, antimony, mercury, and to a lesser extent antimony and silver.
In general, the deposits from the two areas are quite similar in terms of their tectonic history, and the processes and geochemistry appear to be very similar. The presence of extension and ore-related magmatism in Nevada appears to be a component that is much less clear in the Yukon Territory.
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Tectonics, Metallogeny, and Discovery: The North American Cordillera and Similar Accretionary Settings
The northern Pacific Rim—for the purposes of this contribution—comprises the Mesozoic and Cenozoic magmatic-arc and associated terranes of eastern China, Korea, Japan, the Russian Far East, Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia, the western United States, and Mexico. This ~1,800-km-long segment of the Pacific Rim is marked by a broad spectrum of metallogenic environments and mining jurisdictions, which combine to dictate where and how exploration is conducted and the overriding character of any resulting discoveries.
This summary report commences with a brief metallogenic overview of the northern Pacific Rim, with particular attention paid to the world-class Mesozoic and Cenozoic ore deposits that define the region’s premier metallogenic provinces. This is followed by a summary of the relative attractiveness of the region’s various mining jurisdictions, as recorded by recent exploration activity. The major discoveries made along the northern Pacific Rim, particularly during the past half century, are then placed in this metallogenic and regulatory context as a basis for determining the successful exploration methodologies employed. This discovery track record is then used to predict what the future of exploration in this vast and varied region may hold.
Much of the northern Pacific Rim, from eastern China and the Russian Far East in the northwest through Alaska to western parts of Canada, the United States, and Mexico in the southeast (Fig. 1), is characterized by a complex array of oceanic, accretionary prism, magmatic arc, and back-arc basin terranes and associated microcontinental blocks accreted to the North China, Siberian, Hyperborean, and North American cratons, mainly during Mesozoic times (Coney et al., 1980; Campa and Coney, 1983; Kojima, 1989; Nokleberg et al., 2005; Yakubchuk, 2009). The metallogeny of these tectonic collages is dictated by various combinations of pre-, syn-, and postaccretion ore-forming events, the last of which are generally preeminent, except in British Columbia (Nokleberg et al., 2005; Nelson and Colpron, 2007).
Although the Meso-Cenozoic metallogeny of the northwestern and northeastern Pacific quadrants displays some similarities, it is the contrasts that are most marked. The main contrasts stem from the preeminence of tin, tungsten, and antimony in eastern China, Korea, Japan, and the Russian Far East and of copper and silver in Western Canada, the conterminous United States, and Mexico. Nonetheless, both the northwestern and northeastern Pacific quadrants are exceptionally well endowed with gold and molybdenum deposits. The northeasternmost Russian Far East, Alaska, and Yukon Territory display elements of both northwestern and northeastern Pacific metallogeny (Fig. 1). These metallogenic contrasts between the northwestern and northeastern quadrants result in China being the world’s leading producer of tungsten, tin, bismuth, and antimony, mostly from its eastern Mesozoic metallogenic province.