Abstract

A new type of gold occurrence recently discovered in the Carlin trend, north-central Nevada, is clearly distinct from classic Carlin-type gold ore. These occurrences are interpreted to be of sedimentary exhalative (sedex) origin because they are stratiform and predate compaction and lithification of their unaltered Devonian host rocks. They contain barite that exhibits δ34S and δ180 values identical to sulfate in Late Devonian seawater and sedex-type barite deposits. Abrupt facies changes in the host rocks strongly suggest synsedimentary faulting and foundering of the carbonate shelf during mineralization, as is characteristic of sedex deposits. Gold occurs both as native inclusions in synsedimentary base-metal sulfides and barite, and as chemical enrichments in sulfide minerals. The absence of alteration and lack of δ13C and δ180 isotopic shift of primary carbonates in these rocks is strong evidence that this gold was not introduced with classic Carlin-type mineralization. Collectively, these features show that the Devonian strata were significantly enriched in gold some 300 m.y. prior to generation of the mid-Tertiary Carlin-type deposits. These strata may have been an important, perhaps even vital, source of gold for the latter. Although gold is typically low in most Zn-Pb-rich sedex deposits, our evidence suggests that transport of gold in basinal fluids, and its subsequent deposition in the sedex environment, can be significant.

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