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By Morgan Poliquin, M.Sc., P.Eng. Geological Engineer and Director Almaden Minerals Ltd.
Suite 1103-750 West Pender St, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, V6C 2T8. ph: 604 689-7644 fax: 604 689-7645 email: email@example.com; www. almadenminerals.com
HORSESHOE GOLD MINING INC.
1202-1022 Nelson St., Vancouver, B.C. Canada, V6E 4S7.
Contact: Jim McInnes, President.
one of which is responsible for low sulphidation epithermal gold-silver veins and geothermal systems such as the hot springs at Yellowstone or the Geysers in California. These acids rot and dissolve the rock leaving only silica behind often in a sponge-like formation known as vuggy silica. it is worth mentioning that high-sulphidation epithermal systems also form economic gold deposits although they develop under vastly different chemical conditions. after interacting with a much lesser amount of groundwater than low sulphidation veins.INTRODUCTION TO LOW-SULPHIDATION EPITHERMAL VEINS Much of the world’s gold has been produced from quartz veins. highly acidic fluids are formed. Rather the distinction is based on the different sulfur to metal ratio within the sulphide minerals of each subtype. Veins are formed when quartz or other minerals precipitate from a cooling fluid in a planar zone of weakness known as a fault. epi meaning shallow and thermal referring to the heated fluid. The chemist Werner Giggenbach further subdivided epithermal gold deposits into low and high-sulphidation types (illustrated right 1 ). they begin to boil. In contrast. causing the quartz to precipitate in the fault. As a result these deposits are commonly broad. Eventually the rising fluids breach the surface and form a hot spring. High sulphidation deposits result from fluids rapidly channeled directly from a hot magma (where often bulk-mineable porphyry copper deposits form) along a fault where. and as they rise along faults to depths of about two kilometers from the surface. These hot fluids are under very high pressures at those depths. they cool rapidly. Calcite and adularia (a feldspar mineral) also precipitate in response to boiling as well as any gold and silver present in the fluid. fluids that form low sulphidation veins interact with the rock for a 2 . Recognizing that gold precipitates near the surface in these systems. Quartz can precipitate from several different types of fluids. The fluids are typically a mixture of groundwater and fluid emanating from molten rock at depths of around 5 to 10 kilometers below surface. As the fluids boil. Metal-rich brines that also ascend from the magma then precipitate gold and often copper in the spongy vuggy silica. Low and high do not refer to each type’s relative amount of sulphide minerals (metal complexes of sulfur with metals). While this paper deals with low-sulphidation (which are also known as quartz-adularia)epithermal vein systems. the great American geologist Waldemar Lindgren coined the term epithermal in 1933. bulktonnage mines often with lower grades. forming the vein.
sealing the vein again until the entire process repeats itself. TEXTURES & GOLD PRECIPITATING PROCESSES IN LOW-SULPHIDATION EPITHERMAL VEINS The formation of low-sulphidation veins can be quite dramatic and results in minerals being precipitated and transported along several different faults above the depth at which the fluids start to boil. rupturing followed by gold precipitation. As a result of the extended duration of the fluids’ interaction with the rock. and dark metal rich sludge (containing high concentrations of gold in the form of electrum). gold grades can be very high and result in large amount of easy to mine gold in a narrow compact area. fine silica (that has over time turned to quartz). As quartz crystals precipitate in a particular fault. This type of violent phase separation results in gold.much longer period of time. Within this vertical dimension. the fracture gradually becomes sealed. results in banded veins (the picture above illustrates a banded quartz vein exposure at the Hishikari gold deposit. Bands of bladed calcite. Japan 2 ) with each band representing a different phase in the process. When this happens the boiling fluid finds another fracture along which to rise. This is the high grade productive part of the vein system which I will refer to as the ore zone. generally about 300 to 600 meters thick. protracted boiling of these fluids produces high grade gold (greater than one ounce gold per ton) and silver deposits over vertical intervals of generally 300 to 600 metres. the fluids become dilute and neutralized and the silica dissolves (later precipitated as quartz). At this point the pressure changes rapidly resulting catastrophic boiling. a distinctive bladed form of calcite and fine grained gel-like silica (amorphous silica) all precipitating rapidly and being swept along by the moving fluids. The bands of coarse quartz crystals represent passive conditions. precipitate under conditions of violent boiling and fluid flow. 3 . In the meantime gases build up in the fluid underneath the sealed fault until the pressure ruptures the closure. In low sulphidation veins. Eventually the fluids return to equilibrium and quartz crystals begin to precipitate under passive conditions. The episodic nature of quartz precipitation. The catastrophic boiling seems to happen only within a narrow vertical interval.
Sometimes elevated molybdenum can occur above the ore zone as well. The textures of the minerals that form the veins (dominantly quartz. Above the ore zone the bands of quartz are much finer grained (smaller crystals) since different forms of silica precipitated other than quartz. tiny amounts of the fluid itself can be caught in the forming crystals as microscopic bubbles. the highest concentrations of bladed calcite are typically found at the top of the ore zone. At the surface. much input is available to geologists to guide drill programs. and multiple holes are sometimes necessary to find the productive ore-zone. Erratic gold and silver values can be found immediately above the ore-zone in the latticetextured part of the vein. the silica cap is usually devoid of gold although generally highly elevated in mercury. Finding anomalous. and in the process the acid can dissolve any silica that may be present in the rocks. H2S condenses above the water table where it naturally forms sulphuric acid. In addition. of which the interpretation of vein textures and the vein geochemistry are the most important. CO2 and H2S also separate. however. Sulphur can precipitate as well. the temperature and salinity of the original fluid at the time of the inclusion’s 4 . while mercury and arsenic are found in higher grades above the zone. also vary with respect to depth. commonly known as a silica cap. Today. directing drill holes was a rarified art. Since gold is not transported by either the gases or sulphuric acid. When the fluid boils along with water vapour. Beneath the ore zone the veins are generally made up of bands of coarse quartz crystals with little to no fine-grained quartz present. Observing fluid inclusions is another technique that can aid in determining depth of a vein system. such as opal and chalcedony. Antimony tends to occur in and within close proximity to the veins while arsenic and mercury are often widely dispersed into the rocks around the veins. resulting in the foul smell of many hot springs. increasingly smaller amounts of gold are found at elevations above this level. but non-economic amounts of gold in a vein that is clearly eroded to a level above that of the ore horizon is viewed as a good sign of the potential for high-grade gold below. These are known as fluid inclusions. By observing these textures and understanding their variation according to depth and gold content as described above. therefore. the sulphuric acid reduces many rocks to clay and sulphate. drilling is the means to discover ore in a vein system. arsenic and antimony.By virtue of the fact that the gold is transported. a large area can be flooded with silica. Gold and silver are highest in the ore zone and lead and zinc concentrations increase with depth. This process results a resistant quartz-rich rock that occurs above many vein systems. If fluid inclusions are examined under a microscope as they are heated and cooled. When quartz precipitates from the hot fluid. calcite and adularia) vary along the fluid flow path and. TECHNIQUES FOR LOOKING FOR GOLD IN LOW-SULPHIDATION VEIN SYSTEMS Ultimately. From this test. These gases rise vertically. In the past. although there are significant exceptions to this rule. the temperatures at which they freeze and at which they becomes a homogenous fluid can be determined. If a permeable unit (such as a volcanic rock) is situated at the water table. The resulting silica-laden fluid trickles down to the water table and re-precipitates the silica. gold mineralization can be targeted and predicted with accuracy.
Russia One of the most significant recent low sulphidation discoveries is that of the Kupol vein system in Russia. One of the most important similarity is that.9 million ounces of gold at an average grade of 22.2 million ounces with an average grade of 18. 3 5 . like at Fuego.formation can be estimated. the lattice textured calcite is distributed generally above areas of significant economic gold and silver mineralization. This information can then be used to corroborate observations made from vein textures and geochemistry about the depth at which to expect gold mineralization.4 g/t. abundant lattice textured calcite has been identified in veins on the Kupol property. as with many other vein systems.3 g/t and an inferred resource of 4. Illustrated above is a longitudinal section (a view of the plane of the vein relative to depth) and to the right a cross section demonstrating the high grade drill intercepts at Kupol. LOW-SULPHIDATION GOLD-SILVER VEINS IN OR NEAR PRODUCTION TODAY Kupol Deposit. In 2003 Bema Gold announced a measured and indicated resource of 1. At Kupol. This is a spectacular deposit with some significant similarities to the Fuego prospect.
1 g/t in the proven and probable categories and a further 0. Illustrated right is a cross section and below.The El Penon Gold Deposit. At present the deposit has 1. 6 . high gold and silver grades were blind and intersected by drilling at depth.0 g/t in the measured and indicated categories.87 million ounces of gold at a grade of 10.76 million ounces of gold at a grade of 9. Chile The El Penon epithermal banded quartz vein system was found and is operated by Meridian Gold Corp. a longitudinal section respectively that show the blind nature of the mineralization 4 indicating the number of holes that were necessary to find ore deposit. One of the most intriguing aspects of the exploration and discovery of the El Penon deposit is that the vein is not well mineralized at surface.
which is shaded from lowest (grey) to highest (black) grade.2 g/t for a total of 3. A cross section (left) and longitudinal section (below) illustrate the distribution of ore grades.5 million ounces of gold.Pajingo. 7 . High gold grades were encountered at deeper depth. The longitudinal section below demonstrates how many drill holes (hollow circles) were necessary to define the deposit since many holes missed the ore zone altogether. 5 This deposit is an excellent example of how high grades frequently occur at deeper levels within a vein while near the surface little indication may be evident of the high grade deposit below. Australia The Pajingo deposit has resources and production that total 9 million tonnes averaging 12. and diminished closer to surface.
5 g/t 0. g/t grams per tonne 8 .Hishikari Gold Deposit. Hidalgo Taxco. Listed below are some of the most significant vein systems that have been mined in Mexico. Oaxaca Estimated Production >19Mt >6.3 Mt 1. Low Sulphidation Epithermal Veins in Mexico Mexico is particularly well endowed with epithermal low-sulphidation vein systems. Zacatecas El Oro. This drill program encountered spectacular high grades at depth. Guanajauato Pachuca.3 g/t 2.56 g/t 4 g/t 2. This is because there was an abundant source of fluids and metals emanating from hot magmas over a long period of time. both mined and in reserve.5 g/t 7 g/t 20 g/t Silver Grade 500 g/t 780 g/t 850 g/t 500 g/t 240 g/t 900 g/t 100 g/t 300 g/t *Note Mt denotes million tonnes. Mexico Natividad. It was discovered in 1981 by drilling underneath erratically mineralized quartz veins.2 Mt 40 Mt 80 Mt >30 Mt >20 Mt 43. the total contained gold.7 Mt Gold Grade 8 g/t 0. In addition there has been little erosion since the formation of the vein deposits. Durango Fresnillo. The image to the right illustrates that the high grade veins were intersected well beneath veins which had returned low gold grades. Japan The Hishikari gold deposit is one of the largest epithermal gold vein deposits in the world.5 Million ounces) comprising 3. Mine Name. 6 The Fuego prospect is thought to be similar in age to these deposits and associated with the same belt of volcanic rocks. Guerrero Zacatecas. State Tayoltita. In 2004. This means that veins in Mexico are often well preserved.5 Mt @ 60 to 70 g/t Au and 2 Mt @ 20 to 25 g/t Au. totalled 264 tonnes (8. Zacatecas Guanajuato.
to be issued by Horseshoe to Almaden at that time.9 g/t and silver values up to 881 g/t silver. An area of hydrothermal alteration and veining was recognized from the air and the initial prospecting returned gold grades as high as 29. in 2003.000 shares of Horseshoe to Almaden. The Fuego Project is optioned to Horseshoe Gold Mining Inc.THE FUEGO LOW-SULPHIDATION VEIN SYSTEM The Fuego property was found during a helicopter reconnaissance program carried out by Almaden Minerals Ltd. 9 . Upon earning a 60% interest in the property. (Horseshoe) who can earn a 60% interest in the property by spending US$3 Million exploring the project and issuing 1.000. Horseshoe would have 120 days to acquire Almaden's remaining 40% interest in the property in return for a 40% interest in the issued capital of Horseshoe.
King.000 meters along strike. These textures are interpreted to represent a high level of exposure within the mineralised portion of a large epithermal vein system. P.Eng. P. roughly 140 kilometers southeast of Oaxaca City. Horseshoe completed a surface geologic mapping and rock and soil sampling program on the Fuego property.. Samples were analysed by ALS Chemex Labs of North Vancouver and taken under the direction of qualified persons Mr.52 g/t Au and 86 g/t Ag with individual samples up to 10. Sb and As values in samples collected.9 g/t gold and 550 g/t silver) compared to that of a high grade ore sample from the Hishikari deposit. The textures include colloform banded fine grained quartz which has replaced non-crystalline amorphous silica. high-grade gold-silver ore zones should be sought at shallow depths beneath the exposures of the vein with drilling. L. Additional zones of elevated Au. indicating that consistent.000 meters of strike length that is presently known. William Wengzynowski. continuous chip sampling was carried out on the main vein. and locally up to 10 meters in width. 11 . P. This work identified the known veins as resistivity and chargeability highs. Several parallel veins have been identified along the roughly 1. Mr. The veins on average are very wide.Geo. Ag. In 2004 and 2005. Ag. A small Induced Polarization (IP) geophysical survey was carried out to test the effectiveness of this methodology in identifying vein structures that are not exposed. H. Japan 7 . Mr.6 g/t Au and 162 g/t Ag and a 3 meter sample that returned 7. Significant gold grades have already been encountered at surface. sampling and IP surveys are planned to better define these results and Horseshoe has informed Almaden that permits are presently being acquired for a planned diamond drill program to commence as soon as possible. Along this exposed strike length vein widths vary from 3 to 10 meters wide.8 g/t Au and 191 g/t Ag. Based on these observations. Sb and As in soil samples spatially unrelated to the main vein zone suggest that unexposed parallel structures may exist. Additional geologic mapping.Geo and the author. Where exposure allowed.. The results included a 4 meter exposure averaging 4. however the Fuego specimen contains lattice-textured calcite (replaced by quartz) which is indicative of a level immediately above an ore zone.The Fuego project is road accessible and located in Oaxaca State. Illustrated below is a sample taken from the Fuego project (sample assayed 29. The property covers an area of low-sulphidation epithermal veining exhibiting classic low vein textures commensurate with a highly preserved dynamic mineralizing environment. the Fuego vein system is interpreted to represent a level of erosion immediately above an ore forming environment. Similar features are evident. Soil sampling highlighted the main vein zone with elevated Au. quartz which has replaced lattice-textured calcite and sulphide-rich bands containing electrum which exhibits graded bedding. Additional resistivity and chargeability highs were identified in this work which suggests that further veins may exist. This program outlined the main vein zone which has been traced in outcrop roughly 1. along with fluid inclusion studies and geochemistry. Several parallel veins were identified in outcrop as well. Andris Kikauka.
Sulphide and gold-rich bands Calcite Blades (lattice texture) Fine-grained Silica Gel (now quartz) 12 .
bema.. Chomiak. These figures are taken from Bema gold’s website: www. B. Vera South: Discovery History. In: Albinson.meridiangold.I. geochemistry. geology. Norman. J.smedg. Sydney Mineral Exploration Discussion Group. 1990. Murphy. Pages 445-474. 2 3 4 5 Taken from the Metal Mining Agency of Japan’s publication “the story of a Successful gold exploration. origin and exploration. T. Resource Geology Special Issue. 1999. 1990.14. 1-32. T. D.org.. II. 1-3. I. 1993 13 . eds. Epithermal environments and styles of mineralization.Footnotes and References: 1 Taken from White. 1994. 36..au/Sym99vera. variations and their causes. N C and Hedenquist. and Parks. C.htm 6 Mexico: Constraints from Fluid Inclusion amd Stable Isotope Data. 7 Taken from: High Grade Epithermal Gold Mineralization-The Hishikari Gold Deposit. Cole. Controls on Formation of Low-Sulphidation Epithermal Deposits in http://www. p. Taken from: Albinson.com Taken from Butler.J W.. the Hishikari gold deposit”. 2001. and Nelson. and guidelines for exploration.com Taken from Meridian Gold’s website: www. Society of Economic Geology Special Publication 8.E. In: Epithermal gold mineralization of the Circum-Pacific.Siddeley-G (editor). Journal of Geochemical Exploration. D. No. T.