Intrusion–Related Vein Gold Deposits: Types, Tectono-Magmatic Settings and Difficulties of Distinction from Orogenic Gold Deposits



Abstract: A spectrum of intrusion-related vein gold deposits is recognized. Representative examples are described of the following geochemical associations: Au-Fe oxide–Cu, Au–Cu–Mo–Zn, Au–As–Pb–Zn–Cu, Au–Te–Pb–Zn–Cu and Au–As–Bi–Sb. The associated intrusions range from small outcropping stocks to complex batholiths.

The different vein associations are believed to reflect the compositions of related intrusions, which themselves characterize distinct tectonic settings. The Au-Fe oxide–Cu and Au–Cu–Mo–Zn associations belong to two broad groups of deposits, Fe oxide–Cu–Au and porphyry Cu–Au, both of which are related to highly oxidized calc-alkaline intrusions emplaced in sub–duction–related arcs. The Au–As–Pb–Zn–Cu association seems to be linked to somewhat less oxidized intrusions emplaced in a similar setting. The Au–Te–Pb–Zn–Cu association, which possesses well-known epithermal counterparts, is also found with highly oxidized intrusions, but of alkaline composition and back-arc location. In contrast, the Au–As–Bi–Sb association, part of a newly recognized class of intrusion-hosted Au–Bi–W–As deposits, is related to relatively reduced intrusions, spanning the boundary between the magnetite– and ilmenite–series. Such intrusions, which may host major bulk-mineable gold deposits, were emplaced along the landward sides of arcs, possibly during lulls in subduction, as well as in continental collision settings. Therefore, a variety of geological environments is prospective for vein and, by extrapolation, other styles of gold mineralization, not all of them fully appreciated in the past.

Several features of vein gold deposits, including imprecise relationships to individual intrusive phases, poorly developed mineral and metal zoning, apparent time gaps between intrusion and mineralization and presence of low–salinity, CO2–rich fluid inclusions, are commonly taken to indicate a non-igneous origin and to be more typical of orogenic (mesothermal) gold deposits generated during accretionary tectonic events. However, several or all of these features apply equally to some intrusion– related vein gold deposits and, therefore, do not constitute distinguishing criteria. The currently popular assignment of most gold-rich veins to the orogenic category requires caution, because of the geological convergence that they show with some intrusion-related deposits. A proper distinction between intrusion-related and orogenic gold deposits is crucial for exploration planning.