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Abstract

Epithermal gold deposits are the principal source of gold in Japan, and mesothermal vein gold or by-product gold from skarn deposits, VMS (the Kuroko type and the Besshi type), and polymetallic veins contribute historically only 10 percent of domestic gold production. Gold production from epithermal gold deposits of Kyushu amounts to 284 tonnes and comprises about 40 percent of total Japanese gold production, 576 tonnes, from the Meiji Restoration (1868) to present (1999). The silver/gold ratio of ores in Kyushu is less than three and differs from the value that exceeds 10 in other areas (Fig. 1). The Yamagano mine in the Edo era and later the Taio and Kushikino mines were the largest gold-silver mines in Kyushu before the discovery of the Hishikari deposit. At present the Hishikari underground operation and three opencut mines of the Nansatsu-type gold deposits at Kasuga, Iwato, and Akeshi are producing gold.

The major gold deposits in Kyushu, typically of the low- sulfidation vein type and locally the high-sulfidation Nansatsu type, occur in extinct or waning geothermal systems of the Pliocene and Pleistocene volcanic areas. The young formation ages relate to the well-preserved shallow bonanza zones and overlying thick argillic alteration zones, and in places surface expression of hydrothermal activity, such as sinters and nearby acid alteration related to steam- heated acid hot springs.

This contribution aims to present supplementary data to a previous review paper (Izawa and Urashima, 1989), which described the relationship

Introduction

Epithermal gold deposits are the principal source of gold in Japan, and mesothermal vein gold or by-product gold from skarn deposits, VMS (the Kuroko type and the Besshi type), and polymetallic veins contribute historically only 10 percent of domestic gold production. Gold production from epithermal gold deposits of Kyushu amounts to 284 tonnes and comprises about 40 percent of total Japanese gold production, 576 tonnes, from the Meiji Restoration (1868) to present (1999). The silver/gold ratio of ores in Kyushu is less than three and differs from the value that exceeds 10 in other areas (Fig. 1). The Yamagano mine in the Edo era and later the Taio and Kushikino mines were the largest gold-silver mines in Kyushu before the discovery of the Hishikari deposit. At present the Hishikari underground operation and three opencut mines of the Nansatsu-type gold deposits at Kasuga, Iwato, and Akeshi are producing gold.

The major gold deposits in Kyushu, typically of the low- sulfidation vein type and locally the high-sulfidation Nansatsu type, occur in extinct or waning geothermal systems of the Pliocene and Pleistocene volcanic areas. The young formation ages relate to the well-preserved shallow bonanza zones and overlying thick argillic alteration zones, and in places surface expression of hydrothermal activity, such as sinters and nearby acid alteration related to steam- heated acid hot springs.

This contribution aims to present supplementary data to a previous review paper (Izawa and Urashima, 1989), which described the relationship of gold mineralization to volcano- geothermal systems.

Tectonic Framework and Magmatism of Kyushu

Oxidized and reduced magmas

Two contrasting types of magmas, oxidized magma of the magnetite series and reduced magma of the ilmenite series, can be distinguished in late Cenozoic calc-alkaline magma- tism in Kyushu (Izawa, 1992). Reduced magma, which was generated from partial melting of sedimentary rocks of the lower crust, intruded into the upper crust or extruded throughout eastern and southern Kyushu during a brief period in the middle Miocene (the Outer zone granites of 13 to 15 Ma; Shibata, 1978). The Setouchi volcanic rocks (mainly 14-15.5 Ma; Sumii, 2000) in northeastern Kyushu are products of related magmatism. This phase of magmatic activity is also coincident with the initiation of north- directed subduction of young oceanic crust of the Shikoku basin (Hibbard and Karig, 1990), which was preceded by opening of the Japan Sea and associated counterclockwise rotation of southwest Japan (Otofuji et al., 1991). No significant gold mineralization is associated with this type of magmatism, though there are small Au-Sb-As veins such as Shika in Miyazaki Prefecture (Table 1) and Ag and Sn deposits near Kagoshima City.

Table 1

Production of Gold and Silver from Epithermal Deposits in Kyushu

No.1MineAu, tAg, tYearReference
Northern Kyushu (Hohi)
1Bajo13.070.71912-1950(1)
2Yamakuni0.41.31904-1953(2)
3Hoshino3.17.31909-1943(3)
4Taio36.0137.21905-1966(2)
5Hikiji0.60.91912-1950(3)
(Hizen)
6Hasami0.92.21904-1914(2), (3)
Southern Kyushu (Hokusatsu)
7Fuke3.31.01896-1975(3)
8Okuchi22.217.01892-1977(4)
9Hishikari105.058.01985-1999Mine data
10Onoyama1.80.81935-1962(2)
11Yamagano28.428.31640-1953(2)
12Ora-Urushi1.55.51894-1943(2)
13Kushikino55.9477.31906-1991(2)
(Nansatsu)
14Bezaiten0.120.11900-1939(2)
15Kago0.60.31888-1948(2)
16Akeshi8.94.71912-1998Mine data
17Iwato8.113.71938-1997Mine data
18Kasuga8.85.01929-1994Mine data, (2)
(Miyazaki)
19Shika0.10.41955-1957(3)
No.1MineAu, tAg, tYearReference
Northern Kyushu (Hohi)
1Bajo13.070.71912-1950(1)
2Yamakuni0.41.31904-1953(2)
3Hoshino3.17.31909-1943(3)
4Taio36.0137.21905-1966(2)
5Hikiji0.60.91912-1950(3)
(Hizen)
6Hasami0.92.21904-1914(2), (3)
Southern Kyushu (Hokusatsu)
7Fuke3.31.01896-1975(3)
8Okuchi22.217.01892-1977(4)
9Hishikari105.058.01985-1999Mine data
10Onoyama1.80.81935-1962(2)
11Yamagano28.428.31640-1953(2)
12Ora-Urushi1.55.51894-1943(2)
13Kushikino55.9477.31906-1991(2)
(Nansatsu)
14Bezaiten0.120.11900-1939(2)
15Kago0.60.31888-1948(2)
16Akeshi8.94.71912-1998Mine data
17Iwato8.113.71938-1997Mine data
18Kasuga8.85.01929-1994Mine data, (2)
(Miyazaki)
19Shika0.10.41955-1957(3)

1Number indicates the location in Figure 3

References: (1) Saito (1967), (2) this study, (3) Mining and Material Processing Institute of Japan (1989), (4) Ibaraki (pers. commun., 1992)

Fig. 1.

Past production of gold and silver from epithermal gold deposits ofJapan, comparing three major islands—Kyushu, Honshu, and Hokkaido. Location of the major epithermal gold deposits is shown by black circles. Large circles indicate gold mines that have produced more than 10 tonnes of gold. Production data from 1868 to 1999, plus production from Yamagano and Sado during the Edo era (1640-1867) are included. Data were compiled from Yajima et al. (1991) supplemented by Ohta (pers. commun., 2001) for Hokkaido, mainly Saito (1967) for Honshu, and this study for Kyushu.

Fig. 1.

Past production of gold and silver from epithermal gold deposits ofJapan, comparing three major islands—Kyushu, Honshu, and Hokkaido. Location of the major epithermal gold deposits is shown by black circles. Large circles indicate gold mines that have produced more than 10 tonnes of gold. Production data from 1868 to 1999, plus production from Yamagano and Sado during the Edo era (1640-1867) are included. Data were compiled from Yajima et al. (1991) supplemented by Ohta (pers. commun., 2001) for Hokkaido, mainly Saito (1967) for Honshu, and this study for Kyushu.

Oxidized magma (typical island-arc magma) occurs in a narrow belt that forms a distinct volcanic front. in the middle Miocene, magmatism of this type was restricted to a few small islands to the west of the main islands of Kyushu. In the late Miocene (8 Ma or later), volcanic centers developed in northern Kyushu and the west coast of southern Kyushu, then migrated southeastward in the Hohi and Hizen districts of northern Kyushu, and eastward in the Hokusatsu and Nansatsu districts of southern Kyushu. A reconstructed volcanic front at 5 Ma is shown in Figure. 2.

Volcano-tectonic depressions

At present, active volcanoes are located in two volcano- tectonic depressions: the Beppu-Shimabara graben, which crosses north-central Kyushu and the Kagoshima graben in southern Kyushu (Fig. 3). The Beppu-Shimabara graben consists of several calderas such as Aso and Shishimuta. The Aso caldera was active during the late Pleistocene, erupting four ignimbrites across north-central Kyushu. Naka-dake, the youngest central volcano of Aso, has been very active throughout historic time. Tsurumi, Kuju, and Unzen volcanoes also have documentary records of eruptions, but they were not as frequent as those of Naka-dake. After 200 years of dormancy, Unzen volcano was active from 1990 to 1996 and caused considerable damage to surrounding residential areas.

The Kagoshima graben comprises four caldera volcanoes: Kakuto, Aira, and Ata, and the Kikai caldera that is located about 50 km south of Kagoshima Bay. Repeated large-scale ignimbrite eruptions took place in southern Kyushu during the last 100,000 years. In Holocene times, ignimbrite eruptions occurred twice: one from the Kikai caldera about 6,500 years ago, and the other 5,700 years ago from the Ikeda caldera, which is a small caldera within the Ata caldera. Active volcanoes such as Kirishima, Sakura- jima, Kaimon-dake, and Satsuma-Iwojima represent post- caldera volcanoes of Kakuto, Aira, Ata, and Kikai calderas, respectively.

High-temperature geothermal activities are found close to the active volcanoes with andesitic volcanism. Reservoirs of geothermal waters in Kyushu are mostly water dominated and are strongly controlled by fractures such as are presently forming epithermal veins.

Migration of the Volcanic Front and Sites of Gold Mineralization

After the previous review paper (Izawa and Urashima, 1989) was written, many age data were determined for volcanic rocks and epithermal ores (Izawa et al., 1990, 1993; Sekine et al., 1995; Maeda et al., 1996; Sawai et al., 1998, 2001; MITI, 1999, 2000), and it became possible to locate the volcanic front in the geologic past and to relate mineralization with volcanism in each area.

The time and space distribution of volcanism, revealed by the use of a large number of radiometric ages, has distinguished “along-arc” and “across-arc” volcanism. Petrochemical and Nd/Sr isotope studies for age-dated samples were carried out to clarify the geometry of the subducting slab at the convergent plate boundary (Watanabe et al., 2000). The “along-arc” volcanism shifted eastward at a rate of about 6 to 7 cm/yr in southern Kyushu.

The young buoyant lithosphere of the Philippine Sea plate seems to have subducted at a relatively shallow angle during late Miocene. While the subduction angle increased gradually until the present in southern Kyushu owing to slab cooling, the zone of magma generation in the 80- to 120-km depth range migrated eastward. Late Pliocene vol- canism along the axis of the “Hokusatsu bend,” known as a junction of the southwest Japan and Ryukyu arcs, indicates episodic nonisland-arc features. Magma related to along- arc volcanism may be generated by partial melting of wedge mantle, owing to the addition of volatiles made available by the decomposition of hydrous minerals in the subduction slab. On the other hand, the across-arc volcanism of slightly basic andesite composition is characterized by relatively low potassium and high neodymium isotope ratios. These rocks therefore, seem to have been generated under the conditions of a thermal structure that has been raised up owing to local thermal plume upwelling through the slip of sub- duction slab fingering. Relationships between gold mineralization and across-arc magmatism are not clear, but no economic gold deposits have been recognized in the region of across-arc magmatism.

Fig. 2.

Migration of volcanic front in Kyushu showing locations of 5 Ma and present fronts (after Izawa et al., 1992). BTL = Butsuzo tectonic line, MTL = tectonic line.

Fig. 2.

Migration of volcanic front in Kyushu showing locations of 5 Ma and present fronts (after Izawa et al., 1992). BTL = Butsuzo tectonic line, MTL = tectonic line.

Fig. 3.

Location of significant gold deposits. Large circles indicate gold production of more than 5 tonnes. Modified from Izawa and Urashima (1987) and Izawa et al. (1992). BTL = Butsuzo tectonic line.

Fig. 3.

Location of significant gold deposits. Large circles indicate gold production of more than 5 tonnes. Modified from Izawa and Urashima (1987) and Izawa et al. (1992). BTL = Butsuzo tectonic line.

The migration of along-arc volcanism was followed by geothermal activity resulting in epithermal gold mineralization in north-central Kyushu (Hohi and Hizen districts) and southern Kyushu (Hokusatsu and Nansatsu districts) (Fig. 3 and Table 1). Figure 4 depicts the eastward migration of volcanism and mineralization in southern Kyushu, clearly showing that gold mineralization occurred during the later phase (about 0.5 m.y. after the emplacement of the early volcanic rocks) in a particular area. Thus, Pleistocene gold deposits in Kyushu occur within 30 km west of the present volcanic front, whereas Pliocene gold deposits occur further away from active volcanoes.

Style of Gold Mineralization in Kyushu

Gold mineralization is typically of the low-sulfidation style characterized by quartz, adularia, and calcite and associated with andesite and dacite-rhyolite volcanic rocks. In the Nansatsu district, gold mineralization is developed in silici- fied andesites (Nansatsu-type gold deposits). Highly acid hydrothermal fluids are responsible for the strong leaching, and the style of gold mineralization has been described as high-sulfidation type. Kasuga, Iwato, and Akeshi are well- documented examples (Urashima et al., 1981; Izawa and Cunningham, 1989; Hedenquist et al., 1996).

Fig. 4.

Radiometric age (K-Ar) vs. distance from the volcanic front for fresh volcanic rocks and hydrothermal minerals associated with epithermal gold mineralization (adularia, illite, and alunite). A. N-Hokusatsu & Hisatsu includes Yamagano, Hishikari, and the northern part of the Hokusatsu region. B. S-Hokusatsu includes Kushikino, Iriki, and Ora-Urushi. C. Nansatsu includes Kasuga, Iwato, and Akeshi.

Fig. 4.

Radiometric age (K-Ar) vs. distance from the volcanic front for fresh volcanic rocks and hydrothermal minerals associated with epithermal gold mineralization (adularia, illite, and alunite). A. N-Hokusatsu & Hisatsu includes Yamagano, Hishikari, and the northern part of the Hokusatsu region. B. S-Hokusatsu includes Kushikino, Iriki, and Ora-Urushi. C. Nansatsu includes Kasuga, Iwato, and Akeshi.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Eijun Ohta for providing the recent data concerning metal production of Hokkaido. The first author wishes to thank Yukitoshi Urashima for the invaluable experience of cooperative study on epithermal gold deposits of Kyushu during the last 20 years.

Figures & Tables

Fig. 1.

Past production of gold and silver from epithermal gold deposits ofJapan, comparing three major islands—Kyushu, Honshu, and Hokkaido. Location of the major epithermal gold deposits is shown by black circles. Large circles indicate gold mines that have produced more than 10 tonnes of gold. Production data from 1868 to 1999, plus production from Yamagano and Sado during the Edo era (1640-1867) are included. Data were compiled from Yajima et al. (1991) supplemented by Ohta (pers. commun., 2001) for Hokkaido, mainly Saito (1967) for Honshu, and this study for Kyushu.

Fig. 1.

Past production of gold and silver from epithermal gold deposits ofJapan, comparing three major islands—Kyushu, Honshu, and Hokkaido. Location of the major epithermal gold deposits is shown by black circles. Large circles indicate gold mines that have produced more than 10 tonnes of gold. Production data from 1868 to 1999, plus production from Yamagano and Sado during the Edo era (1640-1867) are included. Data were compiled from Yajima et al. (1991) supplemented by Ohta (pers. commun., 2001) for Hokkaido, mainly Saito (1967) for Honshu, and this study for Kyushu.

Fig. 2.

Migration of volcanic front in Kyushu showing locations of 5 Ma and present fronts (after Izawa et al., 1992). BTL = Butsuzo tectonic line, MTL = tectonic line.

Fig. 2.

Migration of volcanic front in Kyushu showing locations of 5 Ma and present fronts (after Izawa et al., 1992). BTL = Butsuzo tectonic line, MTL = tectonic line.

Fig. 3.

Location of significant gold deposits. Large circles indicate gold production of more than 5 tonnes. Modified from Izawa and Urashima (1987) and Izawa et al. (1992). BTL = Butsuzo tectonic line.

Fig. 3.

Location of significant gold deposits. Large circles indicate gold production of more than 5 tonnes. Modified from Izawa and Urashima (1987) and Izawa et al. (1992). BTL = Butsuzo tectonic line.

Fig. 4.

Radiometric age (K-Ar) vs. distance from the volcanic front for fresh volcanic rocks and hydrothermal minerals associated with epithermal gold mineralization (adularia, illite, and alunite). A. N-Hokusatsu & Hisatsu includes Yamagano, Hishikari, and the northern part of the Hokusatsu region. B. S-Hokusatsu includes Kushikino, Iriki, and Ora-Urushi. C. Nansatsu includes Kasuga, Iwato, and Akeshi.

Fig. 4.

Radiometric age (K-Ar) vs. distance from the volcanic front for fresh volcanic rocks and hydrothermal minerals associated with epithermal gold mineralization (adularia, illite, and alunite). A. N-Hokusatsu & Hisatsu includes Yamagano, Hishikari, and the northern part of the Hokusatsu region. B. S-Hokusatsu includes Kushikino, Iriki, and Ora-Urushi. C. Nansatsu includes Kasuga, Iwato, and Akeshi.

Table 1

Production of Gold and Silver from Epithermal Deposits in Kyushu

No.1MineAu, tAg, tYearReference
Northern Kyushu (Hohi)
1Bajo13.070.71912-1950(1)
2Yamakuni0.41.31904-1953(2)
3Hoshino3.17.31909-1943(3)
4Taio36.0137.21905-1966(2)
5Hikiji0.60.91912-1950(3)
(Hizen)
6Hasami0.92.21904-1914(2), (3)
Southern Kyushu (Hokusatsu)
7Fuke3.31.01896-1975(3)
8Okuchi22.217.01892-1977(4)
9Hishikari105.058.01985-1999Mine data
10Onoyama1.80.81935-1962(2)
11Yamagano28.428.31640-1953(2)
12Ora-Urushi1.55.51894-1943(2)
13Kushikino55.9477.31906-1991(2)
(Nansatsu)
14Bezaiten0.120.11900-1939(2)
15Kago0.60.31888-1948(2)
16Akeshi8.94.71912-1998Mine data
17Iwato8.113.71938-1997Mine data
18Kasuga8.85.01929-1994Mine data, (2)
(Miyazaki)
19Shika0.10.41955-1957(3)
No.1MineAu, tAg, tYearReference
Northern Kyushu (Hohi)
1Bajo13.070.71912-1950(1)
2Yamakuni0.41.31904-1953(2)
3Hoshino3.17.31909-1943(3)
4Taio36.0137.21905-1966(2)
5Hikiji0.60.91912-1950(3)
(Hizen)
6Hasami0.92.21904-1914(2), (3)
Southern Kyushu (Hokusatsu)
7Fuke3.31.01896-1975(3)
8Okuchi22.217.01892-1977(4)
9Hishikari105.058.01985-1999Mine data
10Onoyama1.80.81935-1962(2)
11Yamagano28.428.31640-1953(2)
12Ora-Urushi1.55.51894-1943(2)
13Kushikino55.9477.31906-1991(2)
(Nansatsu)
14Bezaiten0.120.11900-1939(2)
15Kago0.60.31888-1948(2)
16Akeshi8.94.71912-1998Mine data
17Iwato8.113.71938-1997Mine data
18Kasuga8.85.01929-1994Mine data, (2)
(Miyazaki)
19Shika0.10.41955-1957(3)

1Number indicates the location in Figure 3

References: (1) Saito (1967), (2) this study, (3) Mining and Material Processing Institute of Japan (1989), (4) Ibaraki (pers. commun., 1992)

Contents

References

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