Geology, distribution, and classification of gold deposits in the western Qinling belt, central China

J. Mao, Y. Qiu, R.J. Goldfarb, Z. Zhang, Steven Garwin, R. Fengshou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Citations (Scopus)


Gold deposits of the western Qinling belt occur within the western part of the Qinling-Dabie-Sulu orogen, which is located between the Precambrian North China and Yangtze cratons and east of the Songpan-Ganzi basin. The early Paleozoic to early Mesozoic orogen can be divided into northern, central, and southern zones, separated by the Shangdan and Lixian-Shanyang thrust fault systems. The northern zone consists of an early Paleozoic arc accreted to the North China craton by ca. 450 Ma. The central zone, which contains numerous orogenic gold deposits, is dominated by elastic rocks formed in a late Paleozoic basin between the converging cratonic blocks. The southern zone is characterized by the easternmost exposure of Triassic sedimentary rocks of the Songpan-Ganzi basin. These Early to Late Triassic turbidities, in part calcareous, of the immense Songpan-Ganzi basin also border the western Qinling belt to the west. Carlin-like gold deposits are abundant (1) along a westward extension of the southern zone defined by a window of early Paleozoic elastic rocks extending into the basin, and (2) within the easternmost margin of the basinal rocks to the south of the extension, and in adjacent cover rocks of the Yangtze craton. Triassic and Early Jurassic synkinematic granitoids are widespread across the western Qinling belt, as well as in the Songpan-Ganzi basin.Orogenic lode gold deposits along, brittle-ductile shear zones occur within greenschist-facies, highly-deformed, Devonian and younger elastic rocks of the central zone. Mainly coarse-grained gold, along with pyrite, pyrrhotite, arsenopyrite, and minor base metal sulfides, occur in networks of quartz veinlets, brecciated wall rock, and are disseminated in altered wall rock. Isotopic dates suggest that the deposits formed during the Late Triassic to Middle Jurassic as the leading edge of the Yangtze craton was thrust beneath rocks of the western Qinling belt. Many gold-bearing placers are distributed along the river systems that flow south from the lode-bearing central zone.Carlin-like gold deposits have only been identified during the last decade in the southern zone of the western Qinling and in the northeastern corner of the Songpan-Ganzi basin. The deposits mainly contain micron-diameter gold in arsenical pyrite; are characterized by the common occurrence of cinnabar, stibnite, realgar, and orpiment; exhibit strong silicification, carbonatization, pyritization, and decalcification dissolution textures; and are structurally controlled. The lack of reactive host lithologies may have prevented development of large (>100 tonnes of gold), stratigraphically-controlled orebodies, which are typical of the Carlin deposits in the western USA. These deposits are hosted by Triassic turbidities and shallow-water carbonates, and an early Paleozoic inlier in the Songpan-Ganzi basin that extends in an east-west belt for about 300 kin. Rather than true "Carlin" deposits, these Carlin-like deposits may be some type of shallow-crustal (i.e., epithermal) hybrid with features intermediate to Nevada-style Carlin deposits and the orogenic gold deposits to the immediate north. These Carlin-like deposits also overlap in age with the early Mesozoic orogenic gold deposits and, therefore, also formed during the final stages of collision between the cratons and intermediate basin closure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-377
JournalMineralium Deposita
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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