Abstract

The magmatic-hydrothermal conceptual model for Carlin-type gold deposit genesis calls upon deep-seated Eocene plutons as the primary source of gold-bearing fluids. However, geophysical surveys, geologic mapping, drilling, geochronology, isotopic tracers, and fluid inclusion chemistry have returned ambiguous evidence for the existence of such plutons. The high-grade Cortez Hills gold deposit in northern Nevada hosts shallow, Eocene syn- and postmineralization intrusions, offering an ideal site to investigate the existence of a deep-seated pluton beneath the district. Here, major and trace element analyses of quartz-hosted melt inclusions from four Eocene rhyolite dikes cropping out within the Cortez Hills pit and results from independent thermobarometers provide a window into the subsurface Eocene magmatic plumbing system to test the existence of a deep-seated source pluton. Dissolved volatile contents, melt inclusion entrapment pressures, and thermodynamic phase equilibria indicate that dike magmas were sourced from ~4- to ≥9-km depth from a polybaric magma reservoir residing as a physically and geochemically interconnected crystal mush with extractable or eruptible magma pockets. Magmas ascended adiabatically (nearly isothermally), exsolving fluids, evolving modestly by fractional crystallization, while trapping quartz-hosted melt inclusions steadily from depth to subvolcanic levels where they were emplaced. These data represent the first unequivocal evidence for a deep-seated magma reservoir from which fluid-saturated magma emanated and released magmatic fluids beneath the Cortez district during gold mineralization. However, further investigation into the specific metallogenic potential and metal budget of parental magmas and the partitioning of gold between silicate melt and aqueous fluids will be necessary to provide evidence that exsolved magmatic fluids may have been gold bearing.

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