Many mesothermal gold-quartz deposits are localized along high-angle reverse or reverse-oblique shear zones within greenstone belt terrains. Characteristically, these fault-hosted vein deposits exhibit a mixed "brittle-ductile" style of deformation (discrete shears and vein fractures as well as a schistose shear-zone fabric) developed under greenschist facies metamorphic conditions. Many of the vein systems are of considerable vertical extent (>2 km); they include steeply dipping fault veins (lenticular veins subparallel to the shear-zone schistosity) and, in some cases, associated flats (subhorizontal extensional veins). Textures of both vein sets record histories of incremental deposition. We infer that the vein sets developed near the roofs of active metamorphic/magmatic systems and represent the roots of brittle, high-angle reverse fault systems extending upward through the seismogenic regime.
Friction theory and field relations suggest that the high-angle reverse faults acted as valves, promoting cyclic fluctuations in fluid pressure from supralithostatic to hydrostatic values. Because of their unfavorable orientation in the prevailing stress field, reactivation of the faults could only occur when fluid pressure exceeded the lithostatic load. Seismogenic fault failure then created fracture permeability within the rupture zone, allowing sudden draining of the geopressured reservoir at depth. Incremental opening of flats is attributed to the prefailure stage of supralithostatic fluid pressures; deposition within fault veins is attributed to the immediate postfailure discharge phase. Hydrothermal self-sealing leads to reaccumulation of fluid pressure and a repetition of the cycle. Mutual crosscutting relations between the two vein sets are a natural consequence of the cyclicity of the process. Abrupt fluid-pressure fluctuations from this fault-valve behavior of reverse faults seem likely to be integral to the mineralizing process at this structural level.