Abstract

A bulk-minable, gold-silver deposit at Montana Tunnels, southwestern Montana, is located in the central part of a diatreme. This diatreme was emplaced along the faulted contact between andesitic volcaniclastic rocks, assigned to the Late Cretaceous Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics, and a sequence of quartz latitic ignimbrites, which are part of the Lowland Creek Volcanics of middle Eocene age. A north-northeast-striking swarm of quartz latite porphyry dikes was emplaced during the waning stages of Lowland Creek volcanism. The two largest dikes, dated at 45 to 50 m.y. (middle Eocene), were intruded into the diatreme prior to the cessation of brecciation and mineralization.The diatreme underlies a 1-km 2 area and is known from drilling to extend steeply downward for at least 310 m. The principal rock type in the diatreme is a matrix-rich breccia. It is characterized by a sand-size tuffaceous matrix of quartz latitic composition containing fragments of contiguous volcanic wall rocks and intrusive rocks derived from the Late Cretaceous Boulder batholith. The batholith is inferred to underlie the Montana Tunnels area. Foundered blocks of volcanic wall rocks lie at various attitudes against the walls of the diatreme and within it. Those composed of Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics underwent hydraulic brecciation after they sank into the diatreme. Blocks interpreted to be composed of pyroclastic base surge deposits from a subaerial tuff ring and a piece of carbonized wood subsided into the diatreme from the palcosurface. The diatreme is separated into two unequal parts by a west-northwest-striking oblique slip fault.Sulfide minerals in the diatreme occur as disseminations in the breccia matrix and, in sub-ordinate amounts, as widely spaced, multidirectional veinlets and as the matrix to brecciated blocks of Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics. All forms of mineralization consist of pyrite, sphalerite, galena, minor chalcopyrite, and rare electrum accompanied by a gangue of manganocalcite, siderite, and minor quartz. Clastic grains and fragments of the sulfides and gangue minerals are common and attest to multiple alternating episodes of brecciation and mineralization. In the ore zone the introduction of abundant manganocalcite and siderite was accompanied by pervasive sericitic alteration but only weak kaolinization and silicification. Sericitization grades outward beyond the ore zone to chlorite-montmorillonite-carbonate alteration, an assemblage that also characterizes the interiors of the late mineral dikes in the diatreme. Gold occurs in electrum, with a fineness of about 550, as inclusions of less than 200 mu m in pyrite and sphalerite. Inclusions of electrum and galena were precipitated together. Silver is present mainly in solid solution in galena.The Montana Tunnels gold-silver deposit is characterized geochemically by anomalously high concentrations of zinc, lead, and manganese and, in comparison to many volcanic-hosted precious metal deposits, is low in arsenic, antimony, and mercury. This metal association and the low fineness of the gold are features shared by the Wau gold deposit in Papua New Guinea. It is suggested that the mineralized diatreme observable at Montana Tunnels was emplaced several hundred meters beneath the palcosurface, upon which a gold-bearing maar volcano, like that partly preserved at Wau, was constructed.

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