The origin of giant lode gold deposits of Mesozoic age in the North China craton (NCC) is enigmatic because high-grade metamorphic ancient crust would be highly depleted in gold. Instead, lithospheric mantle beneath the crust is the likely source of the gold, which may have been anomalously enriched by metasomatic processes. However, the role of gold enrichment and metasomatism in the lithospheric mantle remains unclear. Here, we present comprehensive data on gold and platinum group element contents of mantle xenoliths (n = 28) and basalts (n = 47) representing the temporal evolution of the eastern NCC. The results indicate that extensive mantle metasomatism and hydration introduced some gold (<1–2 ppb) but did not lead to a gold-enriched mantle. However, volatile-rich basalts formed mainly from the metasomatized lithospheric mantle display noticeably elevated gold contents as compared to those from the asthenosphere. Combined with the significant inheritance of mantle-derived volatiles in auriferous fluids of ore bodies, the new data reveal that the mechanism for the formation of the lode gold deposits was related to the volatile-rich components that accumulated during metasomatism and facilitated the release of gold during extensional craton destruction and mantle melting. Gold-bearing, hydrous magmas ascended rapidly along translithospheric fault zones and evolved auriferous fluids to form the giant deposits in the crust.

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