Carbonaceous materials are a key factor controlling mineralization processes in many world-class gold deposits. Haoyaoerhudong is the largest carbonaceous metasediment-hosted gold deposit on the north margin of the North China craton. Gold-bearing orebodies are hosted in carbonaceous slates and schists belonging to Mesoproterozoic rift-related successions. Typical hydrothermal minerals are pyrrhotite, quartz, biotite, graphite, apatite, titanite, and native gold. The ore mineralogy, combined with microthermometry and Raman spectra on fluid inclusions, has demonstrated three stages of hydrothermal activity: (I) quartz-biotite ± sulfide stage associated with gold mineralization (315°–510°C; ~4.8 wt % NaCl equiv; H2O-NaCl-CO2 ± CH4 ± N2 system); (II) quartz-sulfide stage, including quartz-sulfide stringers (IIa, 250°–334°C; ~5.4 wt % NaCl equiv; H2O-NaCl-CH4 ± CO2 ± N2 system) and fractured quartz-sulfide ores (IIb, 234°–308°C; ~4.1 wt % NaCl equiv; H2O-NaCl-N2 ± CH4 system); and (III) post-ore quartz-calcite stage (70°–219°C; ~4.8 wt % NaCl equiv; H2O-NaCl system). The molar ratios of CO2 and CH4 progressively decreased from stage I to II, consistent with the occurrence of graphite in alteration zones. Microscopic observation and Raman spectra suggest that the fine-grained graphite from altered schist (Gr-1/2) and coarse-sized graphite from gold-bearing veins (Gr-3/4) are of high crystallinity and exhibit characteristics indicating a hydrothermal origin. The δ13C values of graphite, varying from −27.1 to −26.0 Vienna-Pee Dee Belemnite (V-PDB), suggest that the carbon was of biogenetic origin. Apatite Sr isotopes (87Sr/86Sr: 0.708293–0.708842) and titanite Nd isotopes (εNd(t): –11.76 to –14.84) also indicate contributions from carbonaceous rocks during mineralization.

Thermodynamic modeling demonstrates that graphite may have precipitated at Haoyaoerhudong due to cooling and reduction of the H2O-CO2-CH4 fluids at high temperatures. Graphite precipitation would significantly consume CO2 and effectively destabilize Au bisulfide complexes, facilitating the codeposition of pyrrhotite, graphite, and native gold at high temperatures (≥379°C). We infer that deposition of hydrothermal graphite is a crucial process for mesothermal-hypothermal mineralization in sediment-hosted orogenic gold deposits.

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