Metallogenic ‘factories’ and resultant highly anomalous mineral endowment on the craton margins of China

Li Qiang Yang, Jun Deng, David I. Groves, M. Santosh, Wen Yan He, Nan Li, Liang Zhang, Rui Rui Zhang, Hong Rui Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


The current margins of the North China and Yangtze Cratons provide arguably the best examples globally of anomalously high mineral endowment within a 100 km buffer zone, hosting 66 diverse world-class to giant ore systems that help explain China's premier position as a producer of multiple metal and mineral commodities. After the cratonization of these crustal blocks during the Neoarchean-Paleoproterozoic, with incorporation of iron ores on assembled micro-block margins, the margins of the cratons experienced multiple convergence and rifting events leading to metasomatism and fertilization of their underlying sub-continental lithospheric mantle. The rifted margins with trans-lithosphere faults provided pathways for Cu-Au (Mo-W-Sn)-bearing felsic to Ni-Cu-bearing ultrabasic intrusions and REE-rich carbonatite magmas, and for the development of marginal sedimentary basins with both Cu-Pb-Zn-rich source units and reactive carbonate or carbonaceous host rocks. There was diachronous formation of hydrothermal orogenic gold, antimony, and bismuth systems in the narrow orogenic belts between the cratons. Complexity in the Mesozoic Paleo-Pacific subduction systems resulted in asthenosphere upwelling and lithosphere extension and thinning in the North China Craton, leading to anomalous heat flow and formation of orogenic gold deposits, including those of the giant Jiaodong gold province on its north-eastern margin. These gold deposits, many of which formed from fluids liberated by devolatilization of previously metasomatized sub-continental lithospheric mantle, helped propel China to be the premier gold producer globally. The thick sub-continental lithospheric mantle of the cold buoyant cratons helped the preservation of some of the world's oldest porphyry-skarn and epithermal mineral systems. Although craton margins globally control the formation and preservation of a diverse range of mineral deposits, China represents the premier example in terms of metal endowment due to the anomalous length of its craton margins combined with their abnormally complex tectonic history.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101339
JournalGeoscience Frontiers
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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