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The Geological Background to a Resurgence in Gold Exploration in New Zealand


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Author Braithwaite RL, Bull VH, Christie AB


The geological environments of gold deposits are reviewed in relation to the strong resurgence in exploration for gold since 1979. The resurgence is due mainly to New Zealand’s geological endowment with gold and its history as a gold producer. Major past production was from Cenozoic placers of Otago and Westland, late Cenozoic epithermal deposits of the Hauraki Goldfield, and the respective Paleozoic and Mesozoic lode deposits of the Reefton and Otago Goldfields. These same geological environments are the targets of current exploration, mainly in extensions of previously mined deposits. On the Westland and Otago Goldfields alluvial and fluvioglacial gravel placers, mainly representing lateral and depth extensions of previously worked ground, are being mined and prospected. Gold production in 1984 was exclusively from these deposits, and the development of mobile concentration plants has resulted in a great increase in mining activity. Mineralised zones adjacent to previously mined lodes in the Hauraki Goldfield, Reefton Goldfield, and at Macraes Flat (Otago Goldfield) are being intensively explored. At Waihi (Hauraki), an open-pittable resource of about 10 million tonnes of ore has recently been delineated. Some new deposit types and little explored environments are also receiving attention. They include: gold-sulphide quartz veins hosted in an alkaline granite dike in west Nelson; hot spring type gold deposits in fossil geothermal (epithermal) systems of Northland, the Hauraki Goldfield and the Taupo Volcanic Zone; and marine placers off the West Coast where an area of auriferous gravels has been outlined near Hokitika. There is potential in known deposits and prospects currently being evaluated for a large increase in gold production by the early 1990s.