From Late Jurassic to late Tertiary time, two geologically, geochemically, and genetically distinct gold mineralization processes were active in the Canadian Cordillera. One group of deposits can be characterized as epithermal because of its association with intermediate to felsic volcanics, regional caldera structures, low pH alteration zones, low Au/Ag values, and quartz-chalcedony-barite-fluorite gangue. The second group of deposits is mesothermal in character and has strong similarities to the Mother Lode deposits of California, being associated with transcurrent faults, intermediate pH alteration zones, and quartz ± carbonate, albite, mariposite, pyrite, arsenopyrite, scheelite gangue. Compared to epithermal deposits, mesothermal deposits have higher As, W, and Au/Ag values, higher CO2 content in fluid inclusions, and δ18O values of ore-forming fluids of +3‰ to +10‰ vs. −14‰ to −7‰ for epithermal deposits.
Like the gold deposits in Nevada and Colorado, epithermal mineralization in the Canadian Cordillera formed from the shallow circulation of meteoric water in subaerial, intermediate to felsic volcanic complexes. In contrast, mesothermal gold deposits throughout the North American Cordillera are shown to be the product of deep circulation and evolution of meteoric water in structures associated with major, transcurrent fault zones. Similarities between Archean lode gold deposits and mesothermal deposits of the Cordillera suggest that Archean lode deposits may have been produced by processes similar to those involved in the formation of Cordilleran mesothermal deposits.