Abstract

The Norseman mining district in the Archean Yilgarn Block, Western Australia, has produced 140 t of gold and about 90 t of silver from 11.24 × 106 t of ore. The district is located within a metamorphic terrane of mafic and minor ultramafic greenstones, intruded by granite cupolas and swarms of porphyry dykes. The orebodies consist of laminated quartz veins, controlled by narrow (0.5–5 m) reverse shear zones that, in general, follow the contacts of metapyroxenite or porphyry dykes. Petrological studies of four shear zones, exposed on the Regent shaft 14 level, Ajax shaft 10 level, and in the stope above the North Royal shaft 5 level, show that the host rocks were metamorphosed to hornblende–plagioclase amphibolites and actinolite–chlorite rocks at temperatures of 500–550 °C prior to mineralization.At the localities studied, intense wall-rock replacement and low-grade (0.5 g/t) gold mineralization are confined to ductile or brittle–ductile shear structures. Alteration is similar in both ultramafic and mafic greenstones, and consists of an inner zone of biotite–quartz–calcite–plagioclase rock with minor actinolitic hornblende and quartz–calcite–actinolite veinlets, and an outer zone, locally developed, of chlorite–calcite–quartz rock. At an estimated pressure of 3 kbar (300 MPa), fluid temperatures during wall-rock alteration are constrained by the hydrothermal mineral assemblages to 480 ± 30 °C in two shear zones on the Regent shaft 14 level, and to 450 ± 20 °C in one shear zone in the North Royal shaft 5 level stope. The mole fraction of CO2 of the fluids is estimated at graphic, and the sulphur fugacity at 10−6 bar (10−1 kPa) (at 450 °C), based on the assemblage pyrrhotite + pyrite ± arsenopyrite. The development of an outer chloritic alteration zone at North Royal is related to the lower fluid temperature at this locality.High-grade (up to 75 g/t Au, 283 g/t Ag) veins formed within three of the shear zones studied at fluid temperatures of 400 °C and less, by the successive accretion of quartz laminae, separated by films of retrograde chlorite and sericite. The assemblage of ore minerals in the veins differs from that in the altered wall rocks, and includes disseminated galena, Pb–Bi–Ag tellurides, and native gold, which coprecipitated with the quartz. The orebodies at Norseman show affinities to Phanerozoic and Archean gold skarn deposits.

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