Global gold deposit classes are enigmatic in relation to first-order tectonic scale, leading to controversial genetic models and exploration strategies. Traditionally, hydrothermal gold deposits that formed through transport and deposition from auriferous ore fluids are grouped into specific deposit types such as porphyry, skarn, high- and low-sulfidation–type epithermal, gold-rich volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS), Carlin-type, orogenic, and iron-oxide copper-gold (IOCG), and intrusion-related gold deposits (IRGDs). District-scale mineral system approaches propose interrelated groups such as porphyry Cu-Au, skarn Cu-Au-Ag, and high-sulfidation Au-Ag. In this study, the temporal evolution of subduction-related processes in convergent margins was evaluated to propose a continuum of genetic models that unify the various types of gold deposits. At the tectonic scale of mineral systems, all hydrothermal gold deposits are interrelated in that they formed progressively during the evolution of direct or indirect subduction-related processes along convergent margins. Porphyry-related systems formed initially from magmatic-hydrothermal fluids related to melting of fertile mantle to initiate calc-alkaline to high-K felsic magmatism in volcanic arcs directly related to subduction. Formation of gold-rich VMS systems was related to hydrothermal circulation driven by magmatic activity during rifting of oceanic arcs. Orogenic gold deposits formed largely through fluids derived from devolatilization of the downgoing slab and overlying sediment wedge during late transpression in the orogenic cycle. Carlin-type deposits, IRGDs, and some continental-arc porphyry systems formed during the early stages of orogenic collapse via fluids directly or indirectly related to hybrid magmatism from melting of lithosphere that was metasomatized and gold-fertilized by earlier fluid release from subduction zones near margins of continental blocks. The IOCGs were formed during postorogenic asthenosphere upwelling beneath such subduction-related metasomatized and fertilized lithospheric blocks via fluid release and explosive emplacement of volatile-rich melts. Thus, importantly, subduction is clearly recognized as the key unifying dynamic factor in gold metallogenesis, with subduction-related fluids or melts providing the critical ore components for a wide variety of gold-rich deposit types.

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