Evidence of local sourcing of sulfur and gold in an Archaean sediment-hosted gold deposit

Vikraman Selvaraja, Marco L. Fiorentini, Heejin Jeon, Dany D. Savard, Crystal K. LaFlamme, Paul Guagliardo, Stefano Caruso, Thi Hao Bui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Determining the source of sulfur in an ore deposit is key to understanding the nature of the ore forming processes. The Neoarchaean Paulsens sediment-hosted gold deposit (∼1 Moz @ 7.6 g/t) located in the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia exhibits many of the characteristics of Phanerozoic shale hosted gold deposits (e.g. Huijiabao Trend, Northern Carlin Trend and Sukhoi Log), in that 1) black shales are the dominant host rock, 2) gold is hosted in pyrite as both free gold and dissolved gold in the lattice of the pyrite, and 3) multiple generations of pyrite have formed due to a variety of geological processes. In this contribution we utilised Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (SIMS) to measure the in-situ quadrupole (32S, 33S, 34S and 36S) sulfur isotope compositions of the different generations of pyrite. Our results indicate that the both diagenetic and hydrothermal pyrite generations display similar and anomalous Δ33S signatures (up to +0.4‰). Further, the Δ33S-Δ36S arrays in the hydrothermal pyrite generations lie on a slope which is similar to that of the diagenetic pyrite. These data support the hypothesis that the sulfur in the ore zones came from the host Hardey Formation black shales. We also performed trace element analyses of syn-sedimentary and early diagenetic pyrite from the Hardey Formaiton using Nano Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (NanoSIMS), Electron Probe Microanalysis (EPMA) and Laser Ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICPMS), all of which show that the syn-sedimentary and early diagenetic pyrite contain high concentrations of many trace elements (As, Ni, Co, Cu, Ag, Se, Te, Bi), including up to 1.5 ppm Au. These metals contents are also abundant in the several generations of mineralised hydrothermal pyrite and form clear patterns of growth associated with couple dissolution reprecipitation reactions. These findings clearly indicate that the fluid that transported the Au must have also been enriched in the base and precious metals that are contained in the early, syn-diagenesis pyrite. Data from this study clearly support the hypothesis that in some sediment-hosted gold systems, all the sulfur and gold required to form the deposit are sourced from the local sedimentary package. By using the presence of anomalous mass independent sulfur isotope signatures as chemically conservative and indelible tracers, it is possible to fingerprint the source of sulfur in a wide range of mineral systems, thus enhancing predictive exploration strategies at the regional to camp scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)909-930
Number of pages22
JournalOre Geology Reviews
Early online date1 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


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