Geodynamic processes that control the global distribution of giant gold deposits
K. Leahy, A. C. Barnicoat, R. P. Foster, S. R. Lawrence, R. W. Napier, 2005. "Geodynamic processes that control the global distribution of giant gold deposits", Mineral Deposits and Earth Evolution, I. McDonald, A. J. Boyce, I. B. Butler, R. J. Herrington, D. A. Polya
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This paper address the question of why giant gold deposits are so unevenly spread over the continents, what processes control their distribution, and how more might be found? Using the source-migration-trap paradigm, it is proposed that the regional distribution of gold deposits is controlled by fluid access to gold sources on a regional scale, and by large-scale migration mechanisms. Local distribution is controlled by migration and trap processes, not discussed in this paper. Our current levels of understanding of gold suggest a strong geodynamic control in the generation of enriched source rocks and the fluids that may carry gold, particularly the influence of subduction and accretion during orogeny. A new six-fold geodynamic classification system that emphasizes subduction and accretion processes has been used here qualitatively to assess the potential for gold-bearing source areas. The resulting classification is compared to the distribution of 181 known giant gold deposits (those with more than 100 t contained gold). The results confirm the proposition that the distribution of giant gold deposits is ultimately a function of the amount of oceanic crust consumed during the orogenic episode that built that part of the crust. Of the six geodynamic classes described, large ocean closure orogens were found to contain the most gold, with nearly half of the world's gold held in known giant deposits. Implications for understanding ore genesis, exploration for other giant deposits, and for other empirical explanations of the distribution of gold are discussed further.
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Mineral Deposits and Earth Evolution
Mineral deposits are not only primary sources of wealth generation, but also act as windows through which to view the evolution and interrelationships of the Earth system.
Deposits formed throughout the last 3.8 billion years of the Earth’s history preserve key evidence with which to test fundamental questions about the evolution of the Earth. These include: the nature of early magmatic and tectonic processes, supercontinent reconstructions, the state of the atmosphere and hydrosphere with time, and the emergence and development of life. The interlinking processes that form mineral deposits have always sat at the heart of the Earth system and the potential for using deposits as tools to understand that evolving system over geological time is increasingly recognized. This volume contains research aimed both at understanding the origins of mineral deposits and at using mineral deposits as tools to explore different long-term Earth processes.