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Tectonic Setting, Characteristics, and Regional Exploration Criteria for Gold Mineralization in the Altaid Orogenic Collage: The Tien Shan Province as a Key Example

By
Alexander Yakubchuk
Alexander Yakubchuk
Centre for Russian and Central Asian Mineral Studies, Department of Mineralogy, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
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Andrew Cole
Andrew Cole
Metal Bulletin Research, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7UL, United Kingdom
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Reimar Seltmann
Reimar Seltmann
Centre for Russian and Central Asian Mineral Studies, Department of Mineralogy, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom
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Vitaly Shatov
Vitaly Shatov
All-Russia Geological Research Institute-VSEGEI, 74 Sredny prospect, St. Petersburg 199106, Russia
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Published:
January 01, 2002

Abstract

The richest gold province in central Eurasia, containing about two-thirds of the region's gold reserves, occurs in the late Paleozoic fold and thrust belts of the Tien Shan, a component of the giant Altaid orogenic collage. Extending through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and continuing into western China, the Tien Shan hosts an array of world-class gold deposits. Principally, these include late Paleozoic orogenictype gold deposits, such as Muruntau and Kumtor, two of the world's 10 biggest gold resources. Such deposits are often temporally and spatially associated with syntectonic granitoid intrusions that were emplaced into a terrane of metamorphosed terrigenous carbonaceous rocks of Late Proterozoic to middle Paleozoic age. In addition, many gold deposits are also related to world-class Cu porphyry, epithermal, and skarn systems formed earlier during early-middle Carboniferous magmatic-arc activity. Similar, but smaller and older, deposit types occur throughout the entire Altaids.

This orogenic collage consists of several Vendian to late Paleozoic magmatic arcs, which were first rifted off the eastern European and Siberian cratons. The clockwise rotation of Siberia relative to eastern Europe during middle and late Paleozoic caused several collisional episodes of these arcs, both with each other and with the cratons, as well as their gradual oroclinal bending. The formation of porphyry and epithermal deposits in the magmatic arcs coincides with the episodes of their oroclinal bending, whereas each collisional episode coincides with the formation of orogenic gold deposits. The giant gold deposits, however, formed during the final amalgamation of the collage in the Tien Shan province.

Although the Tien Shan has been actively studied during the Soviet era, it remains relatively underexplored, and the regionally extensive gold mineralization indicates that considerable potential for major new discoveries still exists in the province. It is a highly prospective terrane for orogenic gold deposits especially, but also for skarn, Carlin-like, and epithermal gold occurrences, which may represent a broad-scale telescoping of hydrothermal systems. Conceptual models of orogenic gold mineralization in the belt invoke interaction between imbricated thrusts, deep-seated high-angle reverse and strike-slip faults, synorogenic granitoid intrusions, and metalliferous black shales during late Paleozoic arc-continent collision and deformation. These factors represent the main geologic criteria that provide the maximum potential for the formation of gold deposits in the Tien Shan and can be extrapolated to assist exploration elsewhere in the Altaids.

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Special Publications of the Society of Economic Geologists

Integrated Methods for Discovery: Global Exploration in the Twenty-First Century

Richard J. Goldfarb
Richard J. Goldfarb
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Richard L. Nielsen
Richard L. Nielsen
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Society of Economic Geologists
Volume
9
ISBN electronic:
9781629490335
Publication date:
January 01, 2002

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