Mineral inclusions within native gold are features of lode gold occurrences that are preserved in detrital particles. Inclusion assemblages in populations of gold particles in placers from specific localities are revealed through inspection of polished sections, and assimilation of robust data sets permits reconstruction of the lode source mineralogy. Inclusion assemblages differ considerably according to the source deposit type, and various approaches have been employed to graphically represent inclusion mineralogy. We present a simple method for depicting and comparing inclusion assemblages using a single standardized radar diagram template that illustrates the proportions of 11 metal and five nonmetal (and metalloid) elements in each inclusion assemblage.

The Canadian Cordillera hosts many different gold-bearing deposit types and is an ideal terrane in which to develop a globally applicable methodology. Although placer gold is widespread, the location and nature of source mineralization is commonly unclear. This study is based on the inclusion suites recorded in 37 sample sets of gold particles from both placer and lode localities. Radar diagrams describing inclusion assemblages show clear generic differences according to deposit type. Diagnostic signatures have been established and act as templates against which samples of unknown origin may be compared. This approach permits differentiation between populations of gold particles formed in different magmatic systems (low-sulfidation epithermal, calc-alkalic porphyry, and alkalic porphyry), which may all be distinguished from gold formed in orogenic (amagmatic) mineralization. Metallic element signatures are most useful in differentiating gold from different magmatic hydrothermal systems, whereas nonmetallic elements allow for classification of orogenic gold subtypes.

Comparisons of mineral inclusion signatures from gold in the Canadian Cordillera to samples from similar geologic settings worldwide suggest that this approach to gold fingerprinting is globally applicable. Therefore, the geochemical signatures of inclusion assemblages provide a robust indication of deposit type and may be applied in exploration to illuminate regional metallogeny in areas where relationships between placer deposits and their source(s) may be unclear.

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