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Lithostratigraphy, geochronology and gold metallogeny in the

Northern Guiana Shield, South America: a review

With a surface area of nearly 900,000 km2, the Guiana Shield represents the northern segment
of the Amazonian Craton in South America, lying for the most part between the Amazon and
Orinoco river basins. Most of the Guiana Shield formed during protracted periods of intense
magmatism, metamorphism and deformation, culminating with the Trans-Amazonian tectono-
thermal event, bracketed between 2.1 and 1.9 Ga. The Guiana Shield is among the least known
Precambrian terranes because it is relatively inaccessible, lacks bedrock exposure due to
intense weathering and is poorly documented in the international geological literature. This
situation has significantly improved during the last 20 years, when shallow in situ gold
occurrences attracted exploration and mining companies to initiate geological programs aimed
at better understanding the geology and the mineral deposits of the Shield. The only Archean
terrane Žca. 3400 Ma. known to date in the Guiana Shield is the Imataca Complex in
Venezuela. The Paleoproterozoic low-grade volcano–sedimentary greenstone sequences and
associated granitoid intrusions have yielded ages between 2.25 and 2.08 Ga. Recent U–Pb age
determinations of the granitoid–greenstone belts suggest protracted magmatic cycles from pre-
to post-peak regional metamorphism. The younger terranes comprise anorogenic sedimentary
sequences of the Roraima Formation, as well as felsic volcanic rocks and associated intrusions
of the Uatuma Formation, mafic dikes of the Avanavero Suite and Rapakivi-type and alkali
intrusions. Several large-scale ductile shear zones have been documented in the Guiana Shield.
In northcentral Venezuela, the most outstanding structure documented to date, the NE–SW
trending Guri Fault, juxtaposes the Archean Imataca complex against Paleoproterozoic
terranes. The Central Guiana Shear Zone ŽCGSZ extends from French Guiana westerly
towards central Suriname and further west towards northcentral Guyana, where it matches with
the Makapa–Kuribrong shear zone ŽMKSZ. In French Guiana, the North Guiana Trough
ŽNGT. is interpreted as a sinistral strike-slip formed during the Trans-Amazonian orogeny.
Most gold deposits and occurrences discovered to date in the Guiana Shield are sited in close
proximity to major structures. In addition, they are linked with low- to medium metamorphic-
grade granitoid–greenstone belts, similar to other better-explored Precambrian terranes. At a
local scale, the gold deposits are hosted within, or in close proximity to, quartz veins that are
syn- to late-tectonic, and to a lesser extent, in stockworks, breccias, and lenses. They are
commonly located in units that behaved in a more brittle manner than the country rocks.
Available information suggests that gold deposits are mainly epigenetic, although some are
associated with specific lithostratigraphic units. Pyrite, pyrrhotite, chalcopyrite, galena,
sphalerite, scheelite, molybdenite and tellurides are the main metallic minerals associated with
gold. Non-metallic minerals are mainly quartz and carbonates Žankerite, calcite, siderite,
associated with minor chlorite, epidote, albite, muscovite and fuchsite. Silica, carbonate,
propylitic and potassic alteration is common. High erosion rates expected after the creation of
an orogenic belt did not occur in the northern Guiana Shield. Shallow-level deposits preserved
in many settings suggest that the granitoid–greenstone belts represent first-order exploration
targets for large tonnagerlow-grade gold deposits.

The Neoarchean Carajás Basin is situated in the northern part of the Carajás Mineral Province.
The main assemblages of this basin consists of volcano-sedimentary sequences composed
predominantly of mafic volcanic rocks, and banded iron formations that have experienced a
sub-greenschist to greenschist facies metamorphism, which the Grão Pará Group (GGP) is the
dominant sequence. The mafic rocks of GGP (Parauapebas Formation) occur in extensive
succession of massive or amygdaloidal lava flows with at least 370 m in thickness, which
eleven cycles were identified by massive structure on the bottom and amygdaloidal and
spilitization zones on the top. The basalts are grayish green amygdaloidal, porphyritic,
aphanitic or fine-grained, and hypocrystalline. The primary igneous textures are mainly
amygdaloidal, intergranular and intersertal and rarely microporphyritic. The primary mineral
assemblages consist predominantly of clinopyroxene and plagioclase. On the other hand, the
secondary mineral assemblages consists mainly of chlorite, albite, Fe-epidote, quartz and
calcite, and are interpreted as product of seafloor hydrothermal alteration and/or sub-
greenschist facies metamorphism. Geochemical investigations on volcanic rocks of the
Parauapebas Formation show 51.12–55.26 wt.% SiO2, 0.69-0.92 wt.% TiO2, 7.02-12.35 wt.%
FeO, and MgO ranging from 4.38 to 7.38 wt.%. The rocks are sub-alkaline and plot in the
transitional and calc-alkaline fields. The primitive mantle-normalized multi-element spider
diagram of major and trace elements shows typical features of arc-like trace element patterns
and similar to those of the upper continental crust. These features include LILE enrichment,
Nb and Ti depletion. The chondrite-normalized REE diagram shows a fractionated pattern,
strongly enriched LREE patterns, flat HREE patterns, moderately negative Eu anomalies and
minor Ce anomalies. SHRIMP zircon U–Pb dating constrains the Early Neoarchean
crystallization ages of 2749 ± 6.5 and 2745 ± 5 Ma for volcanic mafic rocks. The geochemistry
and Nd isotopic features indicate that the basaltic rocks were derived from the subcontinental
lithospheric mantle affected by upper continental crustal components. The arc-like signatures
observed, such as HFSE depletion, may have originated from crustal contamination during the
migration of the basaltic magma rather than a subduction-modified magma source. The
Parauapebas Formation basalts were most likely produced within an intraplate tectonic setting,
rather than a subduction environment. Although this volcanism could be originated by the
opening of a back-arc continental basin, a rift continental setting is more plausible on the basis
of regional geology. Therefore, the Carajás Basin was likely formed in an extensional regime
related to a continental rift setting at ca. 2.75 Ga and later closed possibly by colisional process
in the Neoarchean. The rifting process could be associated to a slab breakoff related to the Rio
Maria-Carajás Collision and subsequent upwelling asthenosphere that provided heat leading to
partial melting of the lithospheric mantle.