The Archean Hope Bay greenstone belt is located in the Bathurst Block of the northeastern part of the Slave Structural Province, a predominantly Archean, granite-greenstone-metasedimentary terrane. The greenstone belt is dominated by mafic volcanic rocks with less common felsic volcanic and volcaniclastic products and subordinate ultramafic bodies and metasedimentary rocks. Three main Au deposits have been defined in the greenstone belt, with a cumulative resource of over 10 million ounces (Moz) of Au, as of April 2007.
The Hope Bay greenstone belt can be divided into a series of coherent panels of strata that tend to be fault bounded and collectively are used to construct a composite stratigraphic column of the belt constrained by U-Pb geochronology on felsic suites. The oldest felsic suite, the Flake Lake suite (ca. 2700 Ma), is a succession of felsic volcanic rocks that has a tholeiitic geochemical affinity, interpreted as a product of rift-related volcanism. Overlying this suite is a series of well-constrained calc-alkaline, mainly felsic volcanic rocks, which have ages of ca. 2690 Ma (Square Lake suite), ca. 2686 Ma (Windy felsic suite), ca. 2677 Ma (Koignuk suite), and ca. 2662 Ma (Clover Lake suite), all of which are interpreted as products of arc volcanism. The transition from rift- to arc-related volcanism divides the greenstone belt into upper and lower volcanic cycles with the transition occurring at about ca. 2690 Ma. The older cycle of volcanic rocks has a distinctive group of mafic rocks consisting of mafic pillowed flows which have an Fe-rich tholeiitic geochemical affinity which is not recognized in the younger volcanic cycle. These Fe-rich tholeiitic mafic volcanic rocks commonly show a spatial relationship to Au mineralization acting as host strata to the main Au deposits in the greenstone belt. The younger cycle (<ca. 2690 Ma) of mafic volcanic rocks tends to have a tholeiitic affinity with some minor andesitic volcanic rocks near the top of the composite stratigraphic column.
Detrital zircon work was carried out for all the main sedimentary successions recognized in the Hope Bay greenstone belt. The detrital zircon results show that in each case the sediments were derived mainly from local sources, as very few anomalously old zircons were recognized. A conglomerate outcropping in the north part of the belt is dominated by locally derived material, with detrital zircon work supporting this interpretation.
The three main Au deposits at Hope Bay are all associated with the older cycle of volcanic rocks, interpreted as products of rift-related volcanism. The structural setting of each deposit is different but each is related to D2 strain in structural and/or stratigraphic settings which provided dilational environments to localize auriferous vein-related mineralization or localized alteration and mineralization of favorable host lithologies.
The older cycle of tholeiitic felsic and Fe-rich mafic volcanic rocks are rift-related volcanic products, which are time-equivalent to the Kam Group, in the Yellowknife Supergroup. Overlying these rocks are calc-alkaline felsic volcanic rocks and tholeiitic mafic volcanic rocks, which represent the transition to calc-alkaline arc-related volcanism, which correlates to the Banting Group of the Yellowknife Supergroup. Overlying the younger (ca. 2677 Ma) felsic volcanic rocks are a succession of conglomerates consisting mainly of locally derived clasts, representing collapse of the arc into a fluvial-dominated environment. This sedimentary succession is possibly equivalent to the regionally extensive Burwash Basin of the Yellowknife Supergroup.