Recognizing if and how Au is remobilized, in solid, melt, or fluid state, is critical for understanding the origin of high-grade ore zones in Au deposits. When evidence for Au remobilization can be demonstrated, then primary versus secondary processes can be distinguished, resulting in a more complete understanding of Au deposit formation. To address this, samples from two Au deposits, Jerome and Kenty, in the Archean Swayze greenstone belt of northern Ontario, Canada, together with archived samples from 39 high-grade Au deposits from the Abitibi greenstone belt across Ontario and Quebec, were geochemically characterized using integrated scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive spectroscopy and electron microprobe imaging and analyses in addition to laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry elemental mapping. These data provided the basis to develop a model for Au remobilization and upgrading of Au that is widely applicable to orogenic gold settings.
Data for the Jerome deposit indicate that Au uptake into early pyrite was not due to pulsing of different fluids, but instead was predominantly controlled by S availability, whereby the oscillatory/sector zoning in pyrite resulted from the substitution of As into S sites during rapid growth due to local chemical disequilibrium. In addition, Au-bearing pyrite from both the Jerome and Kenty deposits records textures, such as porosity development coincident with the presence of native gold and accessory sulfide phases, that are strongly suggestive of coupled dissolution-reprecipitation (CDR) reactions that liberated Au and associated elements from earlier auriferous (100–5,000 ppm Au) pyrite. During the remobilization process, Au and Ag were decoupled, which resulted in (1) a change in Au/Ag ratios of 0.5 to 5 in early pyrite to ≈9 in the new native gold (900 Au fineness) and (2) incorporation of Ag into cogenetic secondary mineral phases (e.g., chalcopyrite, tetrahedrite, and galena). Evidence for an association of low-melting point chalcophile elements (LMCE; Hg, Te, Sb, and Bi) with Au at the Jerome, Kenty, and many (>50%) of the 39 historic deposits sampled, along with native gold filling structurally favorable sites in vein quartz in all samples, indicates a fluid might not have been the only factor contributing to remobilization. This systematic Au-LMCE association strongly supports a model whereby Au is released by CDR reactions and is then remobilized by fluid-mediated, LMCE-rich melts that began to form at 335°C and/or by local, nanoparticle (nanomelt?) transport during deformation and metamorphism. Conclusions drawn from this study have implications for Au deposits globally and can account for the common presence of coarse-grained, commonly crystalline, native gold filling fractures in quartz and the paragenetically late-stage origin of gold in veins. They can also better explain the inability of Au in solution remobilization models to account for locally high gold grades, given the relatively low solubility of Au in hydrothermal fluids.