Abstract

The ages of Carlin-type gold deposits in the Golden Triangle of South China have long been questioned due to the general lack of minerals unequivocally linked to gold deposition that can be precisely dated using conventional radiogenic isotope techniques. Recent advances in U-Pb methods show that calcite can be used to constrain the ages of hydrothermal processes, but few studies have been applied to ore deposits. Herein, we show that this approach can be used to constrain the timing of hydrothermal activity that generated and overprinted the giant Shuiyindong Carlin-type gold deposit in the Golden Triangle. Three stages of calcite (Cal-1, Cal-2, and Cal-3) have been recognized in this deposit based on crosscutting relationships, cathodoluminescence colors, and chemical (U, Pb, and rare earth element [REE]) and isotope (C, O, Sr) compositions. Cal-1 is texturally associated with ore-stage jasperoid and disseminated Au-bearing arsenian pyrite in hydrothermally altered carbonate rocks, which suggests it is synmineralization. Cal-2 fills open spaces and has a distinct orange cathodoluminescence, suggesting that it precipitated during a second fluid pulse. Cal-1 and Cal-2 have similar carbonate rock-buffered chemical and isotopic compositions. Cal-3 occurs in veins that often contain realgar and/or orpiment and are chemically (low U, Pb, and REE) and isotopically (higher δ13C, lower δ18O and Sri values) distinct from Cal-1 and Cal-2, suggesting that it formed from a third fluid. U-Pb isotope analyses, by laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) for U-rich Cal-1 and Cal-2 and by LA-multicollector (MC)-ICP-MS for U-poor Cal-3, yield well-defined age constraints of 204.3 to 202.6, 191.9, and 139.3 to 137.1 Ma for Cal-1, Cal-2, and Cal-3, respectively. These new ages suggest that the Shuiyindong gold deposit formed in the late Triassic and was overprinted by hydrothermal events in the early Jurassic and early Cretaceous. Given the association of Cal-3 with orpiment and realgar, and previous geochronologic studies of several other major gold deposits in the Golden Triangle, we infer that the latest stage of calcite may be associated with an early Cretaceous regional gold metallogenic event. Combined with existing isotopic ages in the region, these new ages lead us to propose that Carlin-type gold deposits in the Golden Triangle formed during two metallogenic episodes in extensional settings, associated with the late Triassic Indochina orogeny and early Cretaceous paleo-Pacific plate subduction. This study shows that the calcite U-Pb method can be used to constrain the timing of Carlin-type gold deposits and successive hydrothermal events.

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