We present petrographic and microthermometric evidence for precipitation of Au-Ag-Te–rich melt directly from hydrothermal fluids and subsequent entrapment as primary melt inclusions within pyrite from quartz veins of the Xiaoqinling lode gold district, southern margin of the North China craton. We propose the formation of Au-Ag-Te–rich melt through adsorption-reduction mechanisms on pyrite and subsequent growth of the melt nuclei via direct scavenging of metals from fluids. Because neither initial formation nor later growth of the melt require saturation of the ore fluid with respect to the constituent metals, this mechanism offers a new understanding of the enrichment of low-abundance ore components, such as gold. Our model may thus partly explain the discrepancy between the high gold solubilities reported from experimental studies and the much lower gold concentrations usually measured in natural fluids. This study also implies that Au-Ag-Te–rich melt has probably gone unrecognized in other lode gold deposits in which Au-Ag tellurides are present.

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