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A Review of Gold Deposits in the Archaean Greenstone Belts of Western Australia


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Author Groves DI, Ho SE, Houstoun SM, Neil Phillips G


There are numerous individual gold deposits in the Archaean greenstone belts of Western Australia, but only 26 have productions and/or quoted reserves in excess of 10 tonnes Au. Most gold production has come from mineralization in shear zones, quartz veins or stockworks in volcanic or intrusive host rocks, particularly tholeiitic basalts or dolerites metamorphosed at sub-amphibolite facies (e.g. Kalgoorlie). Significant prod- uction has also come from BIF-hosted deposits (e.g. Hill 50), and large reserves are quoted for mafic hosts at high metamorphic grade (e.g. Big Bell). Most deposits have marked structural control, great depth extension, and are characterized by zoned alteration haloes of pyritization (with Au), K-metasomatism and carbonation. On the regional scale, most larger volcanic- or intrusive-hosted deposits occur in younger (ca 2.8 b.y.) rift-phase green- stones (Norseman-Wiluna Belt). These belts also have a high prospectivity (36 kg Au/km2 of greenstone belt). Younger (ca 3.0 b.y.) and older (ca 3.5 b.y.) platform-phase green stones of the Murchison and Sodthern Cross Provinces and the east Pilbara, respectively, are progressively less prospective (14 kg Au/km2 and 0.8 kg Au/km2, respectively) and also have progressively smaller deposits. The important regional- and local-scale characteristics of most gold deposits can be explained in terms of a metamorphic- replacement model. In this model, metamorphic H2O-CO2 fluids, focussed by faults and shear zones, infiltrated host rocks and deposit gold at 350 + 50°C and 1-2 kb, largely in response to fluid-wallrock interaction. In many large deposits, gold precipitation was synchronous with sulphidation of Fe-rich host rocks, but the diversity and abundance of smaller deposits reflects the variety of reactions precipitating gold from ubiquitous, auriferous metamorphic fluids. Regional variations in abundance and size of deposits relate to factors such as tectonic setting, alteration styles and possibly source rocks.