The world-class Wallaby gold deposit, Laverton, Western Australia: An orogenic-style overprint on a magmatic-hydrothermal magnetite-calcite alteration pipe?

B.P. Salier, David Groves, Neal Mcnaughton, I.R. Fletcher

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Gold mineralisation at the Wallaby gold deposit is hosted by a 1,200 in thick mafic conglomerate. The conglomerate is intruded by an apparently comagmatic alkaline dyke suite displaying increasing fractionation through mafic-monzonite, monzonite, syenite, syenite porphyry to late-stage carbonatite. In the mine area, a pipe-shaped zone of actinolite-magnetite-epidote-calcite (AMEC) alteration overprints the conglomerate. Gold mineralisation, associated with dolomite-albite-quartz-pyrite alteration, is hosted in a series of sub-horizontal, structurally controlled zones that are largely confined within the magnetite-rich pipe. The deposit has a current ore reserve of 2.0 Moz Au, and a total resource of 7.1 Moz Au.TIMS U-Pb analysis of magmatic titanite and SHRIMP U-Pb analysis of gold-related phosphate minerals are used to constrain the timing of magmatism and gold mineralisation at Wallaby. Monzogranite and carbonatite dykes of the Wallaby syenite intruded at 2,664 +/- 3 Ma, at least 5 m.y. and probably 14 m.y. before gold mineralisation at 2,650 6 Ma. The significant hiatus between proximal magmatism and gold mineralisation suggests that gold-bearing fluids were not derived from magmas associated with the Wallaby syenite, particularly since intrusive events are unlikely to drive hydrothermal systems for more than 1 m.y.Analysis of the C and O isotopic compositions of carbonates from regional pre-syenite alteration and AMEC alteration at the Wallaby gold deposit suggests that AMEC alteration formed via interaction between magmatic fluids and the pre-syenite wallrock carbonate. The C and O isotopic composition of gold-bearing fluids, as inferred from ore-carbonate, are isotopically distinct from proximal magmatic fluids, as inferred from magmatic carbonate in carbonatite dykes.Thus, detailed isotopic and geochronological studies negate any direct genetic link between proximal magmatic activity related to the Wallaby syenite and gold mineralisation at Wallaby. The gold endowment of the Wallaby gold deposit, combined with the relatively low solubility of gold as thiosulfide complexes in low-salinity ore fluids at temperatures of about 300degreesC, implicates the influx of very large volumes of auriferous hydrothermal fluids. No large-scale shear-zones nor faults through which such large fluid-volumes could pass have been identified within the immediate ore environment, so fluid influx most probably occurred largely in a unit-confined, brittle-ductile fracture system. This was the similar to500-m diameter AMEC alteration pipe, which was a brittle, iron-enriched zone in an otherwise massive conglomerate. During compressional deformation, the competency contrast between unaltered and AMEC-altered conglomerate created a zone of increased fracture permeability, and geochemically favourable conditions (high Fe/Fe + Mg ratio), for gold mineralisation from a distal source.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-494
JournalMineralium Deposita
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004

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