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Book Chapter

Global Hydrothermal Gold Resources for the Next Millennium

By
Stephen E. Kesler
Stephen E. Kesler
1
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109–1063
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Bruce H. Wilkinson
Bruce H. Wilkinson
2
Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York 13244–1070
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Published:
January 01, 2010

Abstract

We have estimated the magnitude of resources available to support world production of gold into the next millennium. The estimate was made using the tectonic-diffusion computational model in which ore deposits move through depth-time space in response to global tectonism, and it is based on a global compilation of ages and gold contents for each type of deposit. The method was applied to the most important hydrothermal deposits that yield gold, including Carlin-type, epithermal, iron oxide-copper-gold, orogenic, porphyry copper, skarn, and volcanogenic massive sulfide. As production from the Witwatersrand deposits has declined, these types of hydrothermal deposits have supplied a growing fraction of global gold production, and it is likely that this pattern will continue. Estimates were made for gold resources to crustal depths of 1 and 3 km, which are likely depth limits for most mineral exploration and production. Our results indicate that porphyry copper and epithermal deposits will be the most important hosts of gold produced in the future. The contribution to future production from orogenic gold deposits is likely to decrease relative to other types of deposits because orogenic gold deposits do not increase in abundance as rapidly downward through the uppermost crust as do epithermal and porphyry copper deposits, which form at much shallower crustal depths. Although the gold resource estimated here, about 1 million metric tons (Mt) to a depth of 1 km and almost 5 Mt to a depth of 3 km, is large relative to current estimates of gold reserves, recoverable gold will probably be much smaller, possibly by as much as 50 percent, because of cultural, geologic, and mining-processing factors. Recoverable gold resources to a depth of about 3 km in the crust could supply current world mine production of gold for about 1,000 yr. Although this is a long period of time, it is short relative to the ~7,000–yr history of gold mining. These estimates highlight the fact that a growing fraction of world gold supply will have to come from buried deposits, many below postore cover, and from deposits in which gold is a co- or by-product.

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Special Publications of the Society of Economic Geologists

The Challenge of Finding New Mineral Resources: Global Metallogeny, Innovative Exploration, and New Discoveries

Richard J. Goldfarb
Richard J. Goldfarb
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Erin E. Marsh
Erin E. Marsh
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Thomas Monecke
Thomas Monecke
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Society of Economic Geologists
Volume
15 (1)
ISBN electronic:
9781629490397
Publication date:
January 01, 2010

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