Abstract

Economically significant and geologically complex veined Cu-Co-Au mineralization was recently discovered at Carlow Castle in the Pilbara region of northwestern Western Australia. The inferred resource estimate for Carlow Castle as of March 2019 is 7.7 million tonnes (Mt) at 1.06 g/t Au, 0.51% Cu, and 0.08% Co, making it one of Australia’s most significant known Cu-Co-Au deposits. Here we provide the first account and scientific analysis of Carlow Castle. This analysis suggests that it is a hydrothermal Cu-Co-Au deposit, with mineralization hosted in sulfide-rich quartz-carbonate veins. The ore is hosted in veins that occur within a pervasively chloritized shear zone through the regionally significant Regal thrust. At Carlow Castle the shear zone associated with this thrust occurs within the Ruth Well Formation, an Archean mafic volcano-sedimentary sequence. Within the mineralized veins the dominant ore minerals are pyrite (FeS2), chalcopyrite (CuFeS2), chalcocite (Cu2S), cobaltite (CoAsS), and electrum (Au,Ag). The genesis of the Carlow Castle deposit is still under investigation; however, the origin of the Cu-Co-Au mineralization is most likely related to the migration of metalliferous fluids along the Regal thrust. Based on Carlow Castle’s stratigraphic position within the Pilbara craton and the craton’s relative stability since the Archean, an Archean age of mineralization is most likely. The distinct Cu-Co-Au enrichment at Carlow Castle makes it unique among Archean ore deposits generally, as the majority of Cu-Co deposits are of maximum Proterozoic age. Therefore, understanding the genesis of the Carlow Castle deposit has important implications for understanding the unique processes through which Cu-Co-Au mineralization outside of basin-hosted ore deposits may be formed, particularly in Archean terranes.

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