P-T-X conditions of hydrothermal fluids and precipitation mechanism of stibnite-gold mineralization at the Wiluna lode-gold deposits, Western Australia: conventional and infrared microthermometric constraints

Steffen Hagemann, V. Luders

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154 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Wiluna lode-gold deposits are located in the Archean Wiluna greenstone belt, in the northern sector of the Norseman-Wiluna belt in the Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia. They are hosted in subgreenschist facies meta-basalts, and controlled by the Wiluna strike-slip fault system and associated shear veins and breccias. The 13 individual lode-gold deposits have produced around 115 t Au from 1901 to 1946 and 1986 to today. Historically, they also produced 38.3 t As and 3.5 t Sb. Gold formed in two stages: stage 1 gold-pyrite-arsenopyrite is finely disseminated in the wallrock and breccia fragments, whereas stage 2 gold-stibnite is located in massive shear veins and breccia matrix, as fracture-fill and in banded-colloform textured veins. Stibnite-gold orebodies only occur in some of the deposits (e.g., Moonlight and northern part of the West Lode) and also display a restricted vertical extent, being preserved only in the uppermost 200 m of stibnite-bearing lodes.Petrographic, conventional, and infrared microthermometric and laser-Raman analysis on stibnite-bearing quartz veins and breccias reveal that the antimony- and gold-rich hydrothermal fluid was of mixed H2O-NaCl-CO2+/-CH4 type. Microthermometric measurements reveal maximum homogenization temperatures of 340degreesC (average 290+/-25degreesC), and a wide range of salinities between 0.2 and 23 eq. wt% NaCl. Aqueous-carbonic fluid inclusions contain variable XCO2+CH4 (0.03 to 0.82), with the carbonic phase containing a maximum X-CH4 of 0.21.Combined petrographic and microthermometric evidence suggests that the fluid inclusion properties reflect fluid immiscibility of a low-salinity, medium XCO2+CH4, homogeneous parent fluid at about 290 degreesC and pressures between 700 and 1,700 bar. Fluid immiscibility was triggered by cyclic pressure release during fault-zone movement. The decompression (adiabatic cooling) of the hydrothermal fluids shifted the ore fluid to lower temperatures, significantly reduced the degree of stibnite undersaturation, and caused stibnite to precipitate. The deposition of stibnite reduced the ore-fluid H2S concentration, thereby destabilized gold bisulfide complexes in solution, and caused gold precipitation locally. This mechanism explains the intimate spatial association of stibnite and gold in quartz veins and breccias in the stibnite-gold orebodies at Wiluna.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-952
JournalMineralium Deposita
Volume38
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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