Cenozoic sediments deposited in graben-like basins in the Quadrilátero Ferrífero, southern São Francisco craton, Brazil, have anomalous contents of Hg and Sb. Two localities have been studied: the topaz deposit of Antônio Pereira, and the remains of the old opencast workings at Cata Preta, one of the earliest Au mines of Minas Gerais that dates back to about 1690. At Cata Preta, a brecciated wad-like rock exhibits geochemical fingerprints that point to fractionation of Pt and Pd from Ag. This metal fractionation, reflected in the Au ingots produced in the region, genetically links Cata Preta to the near-surface bonanza ore of Serra Pelada, which formed as a result of a Late-Cretaceous hydrothermal overprint in the Amazon craton. Here, we propose that anorogenic hydrothermal activity in cratonic terrains prepared the ground for the enrichment in precious metals that gave rise to two of the most important Au rushes in Brazilian history.