Minerals and fluid-inclusion populations were examined using petrography, microthermometry, quadrupole mass-spectrometer gas analyses and stable-isotope studies to characterize fluids responsible for gold mineralization at the Getchell Carlin-type gold deposit. The gold-ore assemblage at Getchell is superimposed on quartz-pyrite vein mineralization associated with a Late-Cretaceous granodiorite stock that intruded Lower-Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. The ore assemblage, of mid-Tertiary age, consists of disseminated arsenian pyrite that contains submicrometer gold, jasperoid quartz, and later fluorite and orpiment that fill fractures and vugs. Late ore-stage realgar and calcite enclose ore-stage minerals.
Pre-ore quartz trapped fluids with a wide range of salinities (1 to 21 wt.% NaCl equivalent), gas compositions (H2O, CO2, and CH4), and temperatures (120 to > 360°C). Oxygen- and hydrogen-isotope ratios indicate that pre-ore fluids likely had a magmatic source, and were associated with intrusion of the granodiorite stock and related dikes.
Ore-stage jasperoid contains moderate salinity, aqueous fluid inclusions trapped at 180 to 220°C. Ore fluids contain minor CO2 and trace H2S that allowed the fluid to react with limestone host rocks and transport gold, respectively. Aqueous inclusions in fluorite indicate that fluid temperatures declined to ∼ 175°C by the end of ore-stage mineralization. As the hydrothermal system collapsed, fluid temperatures declined to 155 to 115°C and realgar and calcite precipitated.
Inclusion fluids in ore-stage minerals have high δDH2O and δ18OH2O values that indicate that the fluid had a deep source, and had a metamorphic or magmatic origin, or both. Late ore-stage fluids extend to lower δH2O values, and have a wider range of δ18OH2O values suggesting dilution by variably exchanged meteoric waters.
Results show that deeply sourced ore fluids rose along the Getchell fault system, where they dissolved carbonate wall rocks and deposited gold-enriched pyrite and jasperoid quartz. Gold and pyrite precipitated together as H2S in the ore fluids reacted with iron in the host rocks. As ore fluids mixed with local aquifer fluids, ore fluids became cooler and more dilute. Cooling caused precipitation of ore-stage fluorite and orpiment, and late ore-stage realgar. Phase separation and/or neutralization of the ore fluid during the waning stages of the hydrothermal ore system led to deposition of late ore-stage calcite.