Yuhengtang is a representative slate-hosted Au deposit in the Jiangnan orogenic belt, South China, with a reserve of ~55 t Au and an average grade of ~3.9 g/t. Gold mineralization is characterized by veinlet and disseminated ores comprising native gold, auriferous pyrite, and arsenopyrite. Paragenesis of the Yuhengtang deposit can be divided into three stages. Pre-ore stage 1 is composed of bedding-parallel layers of pyrite in slate of the Neoproterozoic Banxi Group. Main ore stage 2 represents the Au mineralization stage, and two distinct types of mineralization can be distinguished: visible Au-arsenopyrite-pyrite in quartz veinlets and auriferous arsenopyrite-pyrite disseminated within altered slate. Post-ore stage 3 consists of quartz-pyrite-calcite-ankerite veins. In this study, we integrate electron microprobe, laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) and high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) analyses to document textural, isotopic, and compositional variation among texturally complex pyrite and arsenopyrite assemblages in veinlet and disseminated ores. Additionally, LA-ICP-MS sulfur isotope mapping of pyrite highlights the covariation behavior between trace elements and sulfur isotopes at the grain scale, thus allowing the factors controlling sulfur isotope fractionation in hydrothermal Au deposits to be constrained.

Pyrite, of sedimentary origin (stage 1), hosts negligible Au (<1.6 ppm) but is enriched in δ34S (15.6–25.8‰). Pyrite and arsenopyrite from stage 2 veinlet mineralization both display porous and dissolution-reprecipitation textures, have low Au concentrations (<4 and <78 ppm, respectively), and show a large variation in δ34S (–2.7 to 14.7‰ and –10.3 to 12.1‰, respectively). Pyrite and arsenopyrite from disseminated mineralization are, in contrast, characterized by oscillatory zoning textures and homogeneous appearance in backscattered electron (BSE) images, respectively, and are obvious by their relatively high contents of invisible Au (up to 90 and 263 ppm, respectively) and restricted range of δ34S values (0–5.3‰). These data suggest that magmatic-hydrothermal fluids contribute most of the Au and S budget in the Yuhengtang Au deposit. The major differences between veinlet and disseminated mineralization in terms of texture, trace element concentrations, and δ34S signatures of pyrite and arsenopyrite reflect contrasting mechanisms of Au precipitation and an evolution of physicochemical parameters of the ore-forming processes, particularly fO2 and the intensity of fluid-rock interaction. Pyrite from stage 3 appears homogeneous in BSE images yet displays a wide variation in δ34S values (1.2–31.4‰), further highlighting the controlling role played by physicochemical condition (i.e., pressure) on the δ34S signature of sulfides. Results of the coupled LA-ICP-MS sulfur and trace element mapping reveal that some zoned pyrite grains from stage 2 formed via overgrowth of Au-rich, light δ34S (2.4‰) hydrothermal rims onto Au-poor, heavy δ34S (18.1–18.5‰) sedimentary cores.

All results support that multiple depositional mechanisms within a dynamic mineral system were responsible for Au concentration and define the specific textural, compositional, and sulfur isotope signatures of sulfides in coexisting vein/veinlet and disseminated mineralization. The new data highlight the ore-forming processes-based interpretation for ore genesis and underpin the importance of performing complementary in situ mineralogical analyses to elucidate the source and evolution of ore-forming fluids and enable correct interpretation of the architecture of the hydrothermal Au system.

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