Abstract

The Porcupine District, Abitibi Greenstone Belt, is one of the most extensive areas of Archaean auriferous mineralisation. At least two stages of lode-gold emplacement are recognised: the first stage involves gold-bearing carbonate–chert chemical sediments within the lower mafic volcanic sequence; the second stage is represented by auriferous hydrothermal quartz veins which postdate deformation of the greenstone assemblage and transect diverse host rocks.Rare-earth element (REE) concentrations in the stratiform carbonates are typical of the distinctive patterns recorded for Archaean chemical sediments. Chert in these rocks has a δ18O value averaging 17.1‰, implying exchange from heavier 18/16 ratios during diagenesis and metamorphism. Metabasic volcanic rocks and quartz–feldspar porphyry stocks with background gold abundances have mean whole-rock δ18O values of 9.1‰ and 10.7‰ respectively. This enrichment in 18O relative to primary igneous rocks is attributed to oxygen isotope exchange with seawater at low temperatures during fluid transport through the oceanic crust.Quartz in all of the five hydrothermal vein systems present has a δ18O of 14‰ to 15‰, and quartz-muscovite fractionations are 3.4‰ to 3.8‰. Ambient temperatures of mineralisation are estimated to have been 400 °C to 450 °C, from oxygen isotope thermometers, fluid inclusion filling temperatures, and metamorphic mineral assemblages. The calculated δ18O of the mineralising solutions is~10‰, implying fluids of metamorphic origin. REE patterns in hydrothermal quartz veins suggest that they have been derived from high-temperature solutions in equilibrium with source rocks having relatively flat (chondrite normalised) REE distributions, such as tholeiitic and komatiitic volcanics. Adjacent to hydrothermal veins, quartz in igneous rocks approaches isotopic equilibrium with vein quartz, at 15‰, and whole-rock δ18O values for metabasalts shift to ~11‰, implying extensive water-rock interaction. Strong depletions in heavy REE of metabasic schists adjacent to veins provides further evidence for pervasive hydrothermal alteration. The Eu enrichment of all lode gold deposits analysed at Dome Mine is consistent with the reduced state of the solutions involved in their deposition, as recorded by the predominance of Fe2+. The gold-bearing veins are believed to have formed by focussed flow of fluids outgassed at the greenschist–amphibolite transition. Source volumes for Au in the Porcupine District exceed 600 km3, the carrier fluid volume for mineralisation was 60–90 km3, the Au solute concentration in the low nanogram mL−1 range, and transport distances were of the order of 10 km. Such veins may be the precursors of precious-metal-bearing chemical sediments if fluids debouche into the hydrosphere.

You do not currently have access to this article.