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Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Epithermal Au-Ag
! Products of large-scale hydrothermal convective
systems driven by magmatic heat in the upper 1-6
km of the Earths crust.
! The term epithermal was coined by Lindgren
(1922, 1933).
! Subdivision into:
! 1. high-sulfidation (alunite-kaolinite or acid sulfate),
! 2. low-sulfidation (adularia-sericite),
! [3. hot spring deposits]

Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Low-sulfidation Deposits

Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Midas, Nevada

High-sulfidation and low-sulfidation


epithermal Au-Ag deposits
! The two deposit styles form from fluids of distinctly
different chemical composition in contrasting volcanic
environments.
! The ore of HS deposits is hosted by leached silicic rock
associated with acidic fluids generated in the volcanichydrothermal environment. The presence of high
sulfidation state sulfide minerals indicates high-oxidation
states typical of acidic hypogene fluids.
! In contrast, the fluid responsible for formation of LS ore
veins is similar to waters tapped by drilling beneath hot
springs into geothermal systems; low sulfidation state
minerals form from those reduced, neutral-pH waters.

Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Low Sulfidation Deposits


chloride waters
acid sulfate steam-heated
waters mud pools, fumarolesboiling springs, silica sinter
CO2-rich steamheated waters
cold groundwaters
recharge

250C

300C

Neutral chloride
LS waters

2 km

400C

2 km

Magmatic heat
source (plus
volatiles?)

C
200

! Meteoric
convection
! Peripheral
bicarbonate
waters
! Steam-heated acid
sulfate waters

Magma

Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

High Sulfidation Deposits


acid sulfate waters
solfatara

crater lake

acid chloride
waters / brines

200C
300C
400C

300C

Magmatic heat
and volatile
source
Acid alteration
in upflow &
lateral outflow
zones

2 km

Volcanism may
disrupt or
destroy
hydrothermal
system
2 km

Magma

Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Giant Epithermal Deposits



Cripple Creek
Yanacocha

! Low
sulfidation
deposits

Baguio
Pueblo Viejo
Porgera
Ladolam

Pascua-Lama

! High
sulfidation
deposits

Round Mountain
El Indio
Comstock Lode
McDonald
Hishikari
Pachuca-Real
Waihi
Kelian

Modified after Sillitoe,


1997

Pierina

200

400

600

800

Au (t)

Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Selected
styles and
geometries of
epithermal
deposits

Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Ore Deposition

Low sulfidation
! Boiling is the principle mechanism
! Mixing occurs during collapse of the
system
High sulfidation
! Unequivocal evidence for mixing at some
deposits
! Boiling is a viable mechanism for deposits
where gold is transported as a bisulfide
complex

Electrum, tellurides & base metal sulfides, Acupan, Phillipines

Depositional Mechanisms
! Boiling leading to loss of H2S
! Au(HS)2- + H+ + 0.5H2 <> Au + 2H2S

! Mixing with oxidized meteoric water


! Au(HS)2- + 8H2O <> Au + 2SO42- + 3H+ + 7.5H2

! Dilution of saline fluid destabilizing Clcomplexes (AuCl2-) and raising pH

Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

General characteristics of epithermal gold deposits


associated with subaerial volcanic rocks
Low Sulfidation
High Sulfidation
! Open-space veins dominant,
stockwork ore common
Disseminated and replacement
ore minor
! Veins, cavity filling (bands,
colloforms, druses), breccias
! Pyrite, electrum, gold,
sphalerite, galena (arsenopyrite)
! Quartz, chalcedony, calcite,
adularia, illite, carbonates
KAlSi3O8
! Au, Ag, Zn, Pb (Cu, Sb, As,
Hg, Se)

! Disseminated ore dominant,


replacement ore common
Stockwork ore minor, veins
commonly subordinate
! Wallrock replacement, breccias,
veins
! Pyrite, enargite, chalcopyrite,
tennanite, covellite, gold,
tellurides
! Quartz, alunite, barite,
kaolinite, pyrophyllite
KAl3(SO4)2(OH)6
! Cu, Au, Ag, As (Pb, Hg, Sb,
Te, Sn, Mo, Bi)

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Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Alteration characteristics of epithermal


gold deposits
! Low sulfidation alteration
! near-neutral pH thermal waters
! Core : ore vein
! Halo : smectite, illite, adularia (argillic alteration)

! High sulfidation alteration


! acidic pH thermal waters
! Core : most acid altered rock is a silica residue, termed
vuggy quartz
! Halo: acid stable minerals such as alunite, dickite,
pyrophyllite, diaspore (advanced argillic alteration
assemblage)
! Outwards: illite/smectite (propyllitic alteration
assemblage)

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Epithermal Ores

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Epithermal Ores

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Midas
Bladed
Calcite

Temperature
stability of
hydrothermal
minerals
Alunite:
KAl3(SO4)2(OH)6

Jarosite:
KFe3(SO4)2(OH)6

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Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Frequency and
abundance of
ore and gangue
minerals in Aurich epithermal
deposits

Schematic cross-section showing the main features


of a hot-springs sub-type epithermal deposit.

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Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Solubility of Au,
Ag, Zn as a
function of S
and Cl
concentrations
at pH and redox
of LS mineral
assemblages. Clpoor solutions
typical of Aurich LS
ore deposits
transport Au as
bisulfide
complexes, but
cannot transport
much chloridecomplexed base
metals.

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Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

Broadlands Geothermal Fluids

Low-Sulfidation Systems

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Epithermal Ores

11/3/10

High-Sulfidation Systems

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