The subcontinental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) is now suggested by many workers to play a role in the formation of orogenic gold deposits in active continental margins, given that the gold and volatiles may be introduced into the SCLM during plate subduction. The giant Cretaceous Jiaodong gold province within the North China block occurs in a convergent margin setting where there is no terrane accretion, thus eliminating from consideration the commonly accepted metal and fluid source reservoir for orogenic gold—the metamorphosed upper crust of an active orogenic belt. Thus, the auriferous fluids were released below the high-grade Archean cratonic rocks from either enriched SCLM or directly from the subducted oceanic slab. Mercury (Hg) isotopes allow fingerprinting of isotopically distinct reservoirs, discriminating between the two possibilities. We present Hg isotope data for a set of pyrite grains, native gold, and lamprophyres from six main gold districts in the Jiaodong gold province. These samples dominantly yielded near-zero Δ199Hg (0‰ ± 0.1‰), within uncertainty of the mantle Δ199Hg value. The results provide novel evidence that the SCLM predominantly controlled the Hg budget of the Jiaodong gold deposits, implying that the SCLM acted as a buffer for the crustal mass-independent fractionation Hg signatures and a storage reservoir for gold and volatiles. Consequently, during slab subduction, gold and volatiles were recycled and stored within the SCLM and were later released from the mantle during uplift and relaxation of compressional tectonics.

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