The giant Carlin gold province: a protracted interplay of orogenic, basinal, and hydrothermal processes above a lithospheric boundary

P. Emsbo, David Groves, A.H. Hofstra, Frank Bierlein

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    49 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Northern Nevada hosts the only province that contains multiple world-class Carlin-type gold deposits. The first-order control on the uniqueness of this province is its anomalous far back-arc tectonic setting over the rifted North American paleocontinental margin that separates Precambrian from Phanerozoic subcontinental lithospheric mantle. Globally, most other significant gold provinces form in volcanic arcs and accreted terranes proximal to convergent margins. In northern Nevada, periodic reactivation of basement faults along this margin focused and amplified subsequent geological events. Early basement faults localized Devonian synsedimentary extension and normal faulting. These controlled the geometry of the Devonian sedimentary basin architecture and focused the discharge of basinal brines that deposited syngenetic gold along the basin margins. Inversion of these basins and faults during subsequent contraction produced the complex elongate structural culminations that characterize the anomalous mineral deposit "trends." Subsequently, these features localized repeated episodes of shallow magmatic and hydrothermal activity that also deposited some gold. During a pulse of Eocene extension, these faults focused advection of Carlin-type fluids, which had the opportunity to leach gold from gold-enriched sequences and deposit it in reactive miogeoclinal host rocks below the hydrologic seal at the Roberts Mountain thrust contact. Hence, the vast endowment of the Carlin province resulted from the conjunction of spatially superposed events localized by long-lived basement structures in a highly anomalous tectonic setting, rather than by the sole operation of special magmatic or fluid-related processes. An important indicator of the longevity of this basement control is the superposition of different gold deposit types (e.g., Sedex, porphyry, Carlin-type, epithermal, and hot spring deposits) that formed repeatedly between the Devonian and Miocene time along the trends. Interestingly, the large Cretaceous Alaska-Yukon intrusion-related gold deposits (e.g., Fort Knox) are associated with the northern extension of the same lithospheric margin in the Selwyn basin, which experienced an analogous series of geologic events.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)517-525
    JournalMineralium Deposita
    Volume41
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2006

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