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Economic Geology and the Bulletin of the Society of Economic Geologists: Geology, Geochemistry, and Origin of High Sulfidation Cu-Au Mineralization in the Nansatsu District, Japan

By
Jeffrey W. Hedenquist
Jeffrey W. Hedenquist
Mineral Resources Department, Geological Survey of Japan, 1-1-3 Higashi, Tsukuba 305, Japan
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Yukihiro Matsuhisa
Yukihiro Matsuhisa
Mineral Resources Department, Geological Survey of Japan, 1-1-3 Higashi, Tsukuba 305, Japan
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Elji Izawa
Elji Izawa
Department of Mining, Kyushu University, 6-10-1 Hakozaki, Fukuoka 812, Japan
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Noel C. White
Noel C. White
BHP Minerals, P.O. Box 619, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia
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Werner F. Giggenbach
Werner F. Giggenbach
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, P.O. Box 30368, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
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Masahiro Aoki
Masahiro Aoki
Mineral Resources Department, Geological Survey of Japan, 1-1-3 Higashi, Tsukuba 305, Japan
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Published:
January 01, 2001

Abstract

The Nansatsu district of southern Kyushu has been the site of calc-alkaline volcanism for the last 10 m.y., shifting eastward with time. Associated hydrothermal activity followed deposition of the volcanic host rocks by about 0.5 m.y. and was characterized by interaction of magmatic fluids with meteoric water under epithermal conditions, resulting in the formation of high sulfidation Cu-Au deposits at Kasuga, Iwato, and Akeshi. The orebodies consist of >95 wt percent SiO2 and result from leaching of the original andesite lava and pyroclastic flows by acid chloride-sulfate waters. These are inferred to have formed when magmatic vapors containing HCl and SO2 condensed into meteoric water. The residual silica (now quartz) orebodies are best developed where the host was initially permeable. The margins of the quartz bodies are abrupt, with narrow (1-2 m) halos representing the reaction front of acid waters isochemically dissolving the host rock. The halo comprises alunite (strongly zoned in Na and K, with P-rich cores), dickite, and/or kaolinite ± pyrophyllite, grading out into illite and interlayered illite-smectite clays, and finally, propylitic alteration. This pattern is characteristic of deposits of this type throughout the world, for example, at Summitville, Colorado, and Lepanto, Philippines.

Mineralization occurred after initial leaching by the vapor condensates, with metals transported by a dense magmatic fluid. Mixing with meteoric water and the subsequent temperature decrease caused the general decrease in grade toward the margin of the quartz bodies; ore grades are restricted to the quartz bodies. Gold is most closely associated with enargite and pyrite; later minerals include covellite and then sulfur. The last stage of activity was steam-heated, with descending waters oxidizing sulfides to goethite and locally remobilizing Au into fractures (this varies in degree between deposits). Erosion exposed the orebodies to supergene weathering, continuing the sulfide oxidation and Au remobilization.

Stable isotope results indicate that hypogene alunite formed from a mixture of magmatic fluid (δ18O = 7 ± 2‰, δD = −25 ± 5‰, similar to nearby active volcanic discharges) with local meteoric water. In contrast, the clays in the marginal halo have isotopic compositions indicating a δ18O shift of 6 to 8 per mil from local meteoric water values, probably due to water-rock interaction, and the δ18O values of residual silica quartz may also be due to meteoric water domination. Fluid inclusion study of postmineralization quartz crystals indicates that the fluids had a salinity of about 1 wt percent NaCl equiv during late quartz growth, though there is evidence in one sample for higher salinity fluid having been present, up to 30 wt percent NaCI equiv (some inclusions contain daughter minerals of halite and sulfur). The Th values of over 1,000 measurements on late quartz from the ore zones indicate that the mean temperature during that stage ranged from <200°C at Akeshi to about 200°C at Iwato and 230°C at Kasuga. The presence of vapor-rich inclusions, some with Thv similar to Thl, indicate the presence at times of a two-phase fluid in the center of the ore zones, with depths of about 150 to 300 m below the paleowater table. The mineralizing fluid was relatively oxidized (sulfide/ sulfate ratio about 3:1), close to pyrite-alunite coexistence. Under these redox conditions, a pH of 3 and over a temperature range of 200° to 300°C, AuCl2 complexing may dominate over HAu(SH)2 at salinities above about 2 wt percent NaCl.

Several conditions are conducive for high sulfidation mineralization to occur:

  1. a crystallizing magma exsolves a fluid, with lower pressure conditions favoring metal fractionation from melt to fluid,

  2. the exsolved fluid separates into vapor and saline liquid phases due to immiscibility, with the latter being metal rich,

  3. the gas-rich (HCl and SO2 + H2S) vapor ascends to the surface, with at least a portion condensed into meteoric water, forming an acid fluid which leaches the host rock to create permeable zones for later mixing, and

  4. the dense, metal-bearing fluid also ascends into this leached zone and precipitates Cu sulfosalts, sulfides, and Au upon mixing with meteoric water

. If the saline liquid is not released from its source adjacent to the magma, due to lack of fracturing, or if there is a strong hydraulic gradient caused by high relief, only the vapor-related stage may occur. This will leave leached, barren rock which is characteristic of many eroded volcanic terranes.

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Contents

Society of Economic Geologists Guidebook Series

Epithermal Gold Mineralization and Modern Analogues, Kyushu, Japan

Craig A. Feebrey
Craig A. Feebrey
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Toshihiko Hayashi
Toshihiko Hayashi
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Sachihiro Taguchi
Sachihiro Taguchi
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Society of Economic Geologists
Volume
34
ISBN electronic:
9781934969878
Publication date:
January 01, 2001

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