Three vein systems with distinct geometry and time relations are located within major ductile shear zones at Yellowknife. En échelon arrays of centimetre width quartz veins initiated at ~45° to the shear zone boundaries and normal to the schistosity during initial translation on the structures. These geometrical relations conform to the simple shear model of Ramsay and Graham. Orientation of the maximum principal stress was ~45° to the 70° dipping shear zone boundaries, implying that the horizontal stress in the crust was greater than the vertical stress.Gold-bearing quartz veins of metre dimensions are disposed parallel to the schistosity, cross cutting early veins. This geometry requires the stress regime to switch from the former orientation such that the maximum principal stress is parallel to the schistosity, and the effective stress normal to the schistosity is tensile. The change of stress orientation is attributed to transient high fluid pressure which generated hydraulic fracturing and correspondingly high values of permeability. Under these conditions the shear zones act as conduits for massive fluid discharge; quartz and gold were precipitated from solutions cooling along a temperature–pressure (TP) gradient. Crustal vertical stress was greater than horizontal stress.Late stage lenticular gold-bearing quartz veins of metre dimensions were emplaced as vertical arrays within the shear zones, oriented normal to schistosity. These tension fractures formed when the stress regime reverted to the ambient conditions for stage 1 veining during a second episode of displacement on the shear zones. Consideration of the kinetics of intergranular diffusion, with reference to the required transport distances of gold into a lode deposit, implies that long-range diffusive transport of gold into veins was not significant.

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