The LaRonde Penna Au-rich volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposit is the largest Au deposit currently mined in Canada (58.8 Mt at 4.31 g/t, containing 8.1 Moz of Au). It is part of the Doyon-Bousquet-LaRonde mining camp located in the eastern part of the Blake River Group of the Abitibi greenstone belt which is host to several of the world’s most important, present and past, Au-rich VMS deposits (e.g., Horne, Quemont, Bousquet, Bousquet 2-Dumagami).

The LaRonde Penna deposit consists of massive to semimassive sulfide lenses (Au-Zn-Ag-Cu-Pb), stacked in the upper part of a steeply dipping, south-facing homoclinal volcanic sequence composed of extensive tholeiitic basaltic flows (Hébécourt Formation) overlain by tholeiitic to transitional, mafic to intermediate, effusive and volcaniclastic units at the base (lower member of the Bousquet Formation) and transitional to calc-alkaline, intermediate to felsic, effusive and intrusive rocks on top (upper member of the Bousquet Formation). The mafic to felsic volcanism of the Hébécourt Formation and of the lower member of the Bousquet Formation formed an extensive submarine basement or platform on which the intermediate to felsic rocks of the upper member of the Bousquet Formation were emplaced at restricted submarine eruptive centers or as shallow composite intrusive complexes. The submarine felsic volcanic rocks of the upper member of the Bousquet Formation are characterized by dacitic to rhyodacitic autoclastic (flow breccia) deposits that are cut and overlain by rhyodacitic and rhyolitic domes and/or partly extrusive cryptodomes and by intermediate to mafic sills and dikes.

This volcanic architecture is thought to have been responsible for internal variations in ore and alteration styles, not only from one lens to another, but also along a single mineralized horizon or lens. In the upper part of the mine, the 20 North lens comprises a transposed pyrite-chalcopyrite (Au-Cu) stockwork (20N Au zone) overlain by a pyrite-sphalerite-galena-chalcopyrite-pyrrhotite (Zn-Ag-Pb) massive sulfide lens (20N Zn zone). The latter was formed, at least in part, by replacement of footwall rhyodacitic autoclastic deposits emplaced within a subbasin located between two rhyolite domes or cryptodomes. The 20N Zn zone tapers with depth in the mine and gives way to the 20N Au zone. At depth in the mine, the 20N Au zone consists of semimassive sulfides (Au-rich pyrite and chalcopyrite) enclosed by a large aluminous alteration halo on the margin of a large rhyolitic dome or cryptodome.

U-Pb zircon geochronology gives ages of 2698.3 ± 0.8 and 2697.8 ± 1 Ma for the footwall and hanging-wall units of the 20 North lens, respectively. Thus, the formation of the 20 North lens was coeval with other VMS deposits in the Bousquet Formation and in the uppermost units of the Blake River Group. Although deformation and metamorphism have affected the primary mineral assemblages and the original geometry of the deposit, these events were not responsible for the different auriferous ore zones and alteration at LaRonde Penna. Studies of the LaRonde Penna deposit show that the hydrothermal system evolved in time and space from near-neutral seawater-dominated hydrothermal fluids, responsible for Au-Cu-Zn-Ag-Pb mineralization, to highly acidic fluids with possible direct magmatic contributions, responsible for Au ± Cu-rich ore and aluminous alteration. The different ore types and alteration reflect the evolving local volcanic setting described in this study.

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