The gold endowment of the western Churchill Province is conventionally attributed to reworking and attendant metamorphism during the Trans-Hudson Orogeny (1.9–1.8 Ga). The Meliadine gold district is regarded as a type example of this inferred Paleoproterozoic gold metallotect and also represents one of Canada’s largest emerging orogenic greenstone- and banded iron formation (BIF)-hosted gold districts (2.8 Moz contained Au in reserves and total resource of 5.8 Moz Au). The largest gold deposits are cospatial with the Pyke fault and associated quartz (± ankerite) veining, which cuts Neoarchean (ca. 2.66 Ga) plutonic and supracrustal rocks comprising the Rankin Inlet greenstone belt.
Meliadine gold occurs as inclusions within idioblastic arsenopyrite crystals, at sulfide crystal boundaries, and/or as sulfide fracture fills in hydrothermally altered, sulfidized, and veined BIF. Clusters of gold, Bi-Mo telluride, chalcopyrite, and galena inclusions characterize high-grade ore zones and are spatially associated with sieve-textured arsenopyrite domains. These microtextural relationships suggest that incipient sulfide recrystallization liberated gold, which, along with other precious and base metals, was redistributed during late, fluid-assisted and deformation/metamorphic-driven remobilization. Late precious and base metal enrichment is also demonstrated by in situ laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) arsenopyrite mapping. Hydrothermal xenotime crystals occur with gold in low-strain microtextural sites and yield U-Pb ages at ca. 1.86 Ga, suggesting that remobilization was concomitant with Trans Hudson orogenesis.
New Re-Os arsenopyrite model ages range from 2.3 to 1.8 Ga and document a hitherto unrecognized, pre-1.86 Ga hydrothermal activity. The range of Re-Os model ages tends to support partial open-system behavior and/or mixing of disparate arsenopyrite generations that are evident from microtextural observations and in situ LA-ICP-MS element mapping. Replicate analyses of the two most rhenium rich arsenopyrite samples yield reproducible Re-Os model ages at ca. 2.27 and 1.90 Ga. These rhenium-rich samples are also gold poor and likely yield ages that predate gold remobilization and subsequent enrichment along arsenopyrite crystal boundaries and fractures. We suggest that pre-1.86 Ga hydrothermal activity was likely critical to the gold endowment of the district, but is obscured by reworking during the later stages of the Trans-Hudson Orogeny at 1.86 Ga. If correct, these new ages imply that the Paleoproterozoic gold metallotect, which is recorded across the western Churchill Province, in fact comprises multiple, temporally distinct gold events. Differentiating between disparate Paleoproterozoic gold events represents a critical step for effective mineral exploration in the western Churchill Province and at other reworked Archean terranes.