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A New Paradigm for Understanding Ore-Shoots in Gold Deposits

Jon Hronsky Centre for Exploration Targeting Seminar 13 April 2012

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Introduction
• Grade is key to profit margin in gold mining • Many deposits have an irregular distribution of grade (“oreshoots”) • Much gold exploration increasingly focused at depth in known camps • Therefore important to understand process controls on oreshoot distribution and their application to targeting • A conceptual framework to help with this presented here • These concepts also relevant to other hydrothermal ore deposits.

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Schematic Plan Section - Peters (1993)

The Ore-Shoot Concept : A localised well-mineralised rock volume

Ore Shoots:
A general and long known empirical association with heterogeneities: What is the process meaning?
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Peters (1993)

Campbell (1990)

The oldest process model: Norseman “shear-link” concept of the 1930s
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less focused fluid flow system • Assumes they are generated by dynamic syn-ore deformation • Based above assumptions. assumes knowledge of structural geometry and inferred syn-ore stress field can be used to predict these anomalous dilational sites • Assumes localised mineralised volumes hosted by structures such as faults and shear zones are intrinsically a property of these structures 6 . larger-scale.Ore-Fluid Focusing: The Current Paradigm • Not commonly explicitly articulated • Recognises (correctly) that mineralised rock volumes represent sites of anomalous ore-fluid flux • Assumes these anomalous volumes represent localised more dilatant rock volumes embedded within a surrounding.

The Current Paradigm for Ore Fluid Focusing: Localised volume of higher fluid flux embedded within a broader flow system Ridley (1993) .

Problem with the Current Paradigm: Lack of consistent predictive relationship between structural geometry and ore Cracow Epithermal Gold Deposit Mickelthwaite (2008) 8 .

larger-scale. less focused fluid flow system • Assumes they are generated by dynamic syn-ore deformation • Based above assumptions.Ore-Fluid Focusing: The Current Paradigm • Not commonly explicitly articulated • Correctly recognises (correctly) that mineralised rock volumes represent sites of anomalous ore-fluid flux • Assumes these anomalous volumes represent localised more dilatant rock volumes embedded within a surrounding. assumes knowledge of structural geometry and inferred syn-ore stress field can be used to predict these anomalous dilational sites • Assumes localised mineralised volumes hosted by structures such as faults and shear zones are intrinsically a property of these structures WRONG! 9 .

2011) • Represent examples of self-organised critical systems • Provides the processes key to understanding ore-localisation • Explains failure of current paradigm for predictive structural targeting of ore-shoots in hydrothermal ore systems 10 .A New Perspective: Ore Shoots as Fluid Exit Conduits • Proposed that most ore deposits can be considered as forming in transient fluid-exit conduits. associated with the episodic rupture of over-pressured reservoirs at depth (Hronsky.

A General Model for Ore-forming SOC Systems Fluid Sink Episodic focused energy and mass flux Threshold Barrier (need not be a physical seal) Thermal Halo-produced by entropy dumped into environment Transient Exit Conduit Fluid Reservoir Slow persistent fluid flux Fluid (Energy) Source 11 .

Electric Charges Accumulate Slowly Transient Rapid Breach of Threshold Barrier Threshold Barrier: Resistive Air Ground The Lightning Analogy for Ore-Forming Systems 12 .

Ground Transient Rapid Breach of Threshold Barrier Threshold Barrier: Resistive Air Electric Charges Accumulate Slowly The Lightning Analogy for Ore-Forming Systems 13 .

Porphyry Cu Example Fluid Exit Conduit From Sillitoe (2010) Fluid Reservoir 14 .

usually over multiple cyclic events • Zones of extreme crustal permeability • Zones of localized intense fracturing • Sourced from overpressured reservoir zone at depth (may be partly located within this zone) • Conduits nucleate at local heterogeneities in reservoir • They break their way up to the surface. taking the easiest path • May re-use existing structures or fracture previously intact rock • Fluid-pulse related stress changes large and overwhelm ambient stress field 15 .Fluid Exit Conduits • Rock volumes that have been conduits for large amounts of fluid flux.

superimposed focused fluid exit events all using the same plumbing .Vry et al (2010) El Teniente: A well documented example of multiple.

Fluid Conduit Zones in Orogenic Gold deposits (A: Mother Lode. California (Goldfarb et al.C: Bendigo (Cox. 2005) 17 . 2005) B.

Waihi (Torckler 2008) .Favona North Epithermal Vein.

Examples of Fluid Exit Conduits ~100m ~200mm New Holland: (Henson. 2008) .

2008) 100m Image from: Carl Young .Section view Fitzroy Fault and Au distribution (gold blobs): Image from Gocad looking SW? Strongly fault controlled Kanowna Belle Example (Henson.

2008) .Ernest Henry IOCG deposit: Pipe-like breccia zone (Cleverley.

105 to 106 times > than background crustal permeability at that depth (6km) • 22 .8km) petroleum drilling along strike to contain over-pressured CO2 fluids. including some > M 5. at about 6km depth.0.6-6.0 near the top of an evaporite unit. Initial ruptures followed by a 30 day sequence of thousands of after shocks. post-seismic permeability associated with this fluid pulse has been modeled as 4 x 10-11m2. Evaporite unit known from deep (4. Localised transient.The 1997 Umbria-Marche Earthquake as a Modern Process model • • • • • Documented by Miller et al (2004) Two ruptures of M 5. Modeling indicates a strong correlation between the propagation of a fluid pressure pulse from this reservoir and the distribution of the after shock swarm.

Propagating Fluid pressure pulse: (after-shock swarm) Main Shock Rupture Site Overpressured Evaporite sequence (known from deep drilling) 1997 Umbria Marche EQ: Cross-section Miller et al (2004) 23 .

Fluids do not respond passively to structure : They create their own Pipes! Modeled Changes in Coulomb Failure Stress post rupture – no correlation with aftershock swarm Modeled Changes in Pore Fluid Pressure post rupturegood correlation with aftershock swarm 1997 Umbria-Marche EQ Miller et al (2004) 24 .

Brother’s Volcano Kermadec Arc: Another modern example of a focused fluid exit conduit De Ronde et al (2011) .

Important concept: fluid conduits may be much more extensive features than the pre-existing structures which host them. including right-angled bends in three dimensions.The New Paradigm • • • Now recognise fluid-flow conduits as the primary element of ore-forming hydrothermal systems. Fluid flow conduits may commonly follow quite torturous paths from source to sink. • • 26 . depending on which pathway provides the path of least resistance. A single fluid conduit may move between host structures as it propagates upward. Replace the historical “structure-centric” framework with a “fluid-centric” framework.

Conduit-focused rather than Structure-focused Targeting Perspective 27 .

Fiji Ore-Fluid Flow Cross-Section (Begg.Elbow Bend Example: Emperor Epithermal Au deposit. 1996) 28 .

1996) 29 .Steep-plunging ore-shoot associated with loci of steep fluid flow pipe Intersection Trace of the HW Shear Shatter Shear Flat-plunging Fluid flow pipe Plan-section (Begg.

Inferred Ore Fluid Path Lepanto-Far South East Elbow Bend Example Hedenquist and Taran (2009) .

Copying the Komatiite NiS Approach: Find the Conduit then Find the Ore-shoot .

Need to think of our ore-systems as a connected network from source to sink 32 .

Flat lode systems need steep feeders somewhere! Sunrise Dam example: Baker et al (2010) 33 .

Controls on Conduit Localisation • Key control is rheological structure of rock mass above reservoir – how easy is it for the fluid pulse to fracture itself upwards? • Fault and shear zones effectively just another rock type • Certain geometric patterns consistently favourable – “Lightning Rod” analogy 34 .

Fluid-pressure driven conduit development commonly prefers pipe-like volumes of more competent rock rather than pre-existing structures: Structures are important because they establish the rock geometry 35 .

Source: David Groves 36 .

Wallaby (Miller. 2008) (Syenite in red. Actinolite-magnetite-epidote-calcite alteration pipe (syeniterelated) bounded by dashed lines . high-grade later gold lodes in green) .

Repetitive Self-Organisation using the Same Rock Volume: Some Geometries must be Fundamentally Favourable! 38 .

Fluid Mixing (at discharge site only!) 39 . Surface substrate (ie fracture margin) character and availability 3.Three Key Depositional Processes 1. Pressure Reduction (fluid unmixing) 2.

40 .Boiling Zone Control – Epithermal Gold Boiling Zone Fluid Flow Cross-section through the Honko and Sanjin ore bodies at Hishikari. 2002. modified after Ibaraki and Suzuki. they have a limited vertical extent and are closely associated with the unconformity between the underlying Shimanto sediments and the overlying Hishikari Andesites. The bonanza veins are depicted as thick black lines. Japan (Faure et al. 1993).

Pressure controls Gold Grade in Porphyry Deposits Murakami et al (2009) 41 .

Base of Mineralization FLUID FLUX Approx Paleo-depth: 6-9km Section through the Butte Deposit: ( ~3km of vertical exposure after restoration of Continental Fault offset) Note correlation between base of mineralization and lower limit of brine inclusions (ie evidence for phase separation as critical control on mineralization) Rusk et al (2008) 42 .

Interpreted Fluid Flow Conduits Au-Cu Centre: Low density vapour – very saline brine Peripheral Cu Zone: Denser vapour – less saline brine Barren Deep Core: Single Phase Parental Fluids Deep Periphery: Single Phase Parental Fluids Bingham Canyon – Zonation in Cu/Au and Grade and Relationship to Ore Fluid Physical Evolution (Landtwing et al. In Press) 43 .

Campbell (1990) Norseman: Local Quartz-Au association within conduit implies pressure is key process 44 .

Pressure-related upper boundary to mineralisation? Irarrazaval et al (2010) Pressure can also bound the upper limits of Mineralisation .

Golden Mile. Kalgoorlie Clout (1989) Multi-stage Fluid Unmixing may be Important 46 .Low-grade “spent-fluid” zone Base of Boiling Zone? High-Grade “Green-Leader” Au-Telluride Ore-shoot Interpreted main fluid flow conduits Long Section No. Lake View Mine.3 West Lode.

CIP examples • Likely to be an important detailed control on high Au grades 47 .The role of Surface Energy Effects and the Substrate • Evidence: – Au grains are often closely associated with boundaries of gangue sulphide grains – Au grains commonly at wall-rock margins to veins or associated with thin laminae of wall-rocks within the vein – High-grade Au-carbon association – Fine-scale (mm-cm) variability in Au grade associated with selective sulphide replacement of a magnetite bearing BIF • Adsorption: – process by which a liquid solute accumulates on the surface of a solid – Champagne Pool.

Barren Au-ore BIF-hosted Gold Deposit: Note fine scale pyrite replacement of magnetite and associated Au deposition (photo from David Groves) .

NZ Several 100 ppm Au adsorpted on to amorphous orange As-SbS colloids from highly Au under-saturated fluids (Renders & Seward. 1989) 49 .Champagne Pool Taupo Region.

(boundary with hydrosphere or atmosphere) Strata sink Discharge zone Discharge zone Ore Fo rming Ore Forming Fluid feeder conduit Fluid feeder conduit Discharge into a Surface Sink Discharge into a Sub-surface Sink 50 .Discharge Zones: The Optimal Site for Fluid Mixing Surface .

Peters (1993) Localised High-Grade Ore-Shoots within Ore-Fluid Conduits .

both processes commonly occur together 52 .In practice.

Campbell (1990) Norseman Example: Pre-ore dyke geometry controls local ore-shoots within conduit – a very common control in Orogenic Au deposits 53 .

Uniform grade distribution dominates Conduit Internal Morphology and links to grade distribution (Fault/Shear zone associated) Local High-Grade Shoots dominate 54 .

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controlled by dyke intersections ? Second Order control: Base of Primary Depositional Zone? Campbell (1990) 56 .Ore-Shoot Process Model: Mararoa Reef (Norseman) Case study ? First Order control: Fluid exit conduit -intersection of (more brittle) mafic stratigraphy and cross-cutting u/mafic dyke swarm Third Order control: Local Dilational Zone -local deflection of conduit-hosting shear fracture.

stable isotopes?) 57 .Practical Implications • Ore-shoots can be hosted by all pre-existing structures not just the latest “syn-ore” ones • The age of the host structure is not necessarily the age of mineralisation • A conduit that hosts one localised high-grade oreshoot volume is likely to host others • Important to separate out controls at conduit scale from localised ore-shoots • Exploration should focus down the plunge trend of the conduit not the localised ore-shoot • Need to develop methods to map conduits where they are not ore bodies (alteration.

• The key geological element for targeting is localised rheological heterogeneity (in 3D) • If an ore-shoot stops at depth need to understand why bottom of primary depositional zone or end of local highgrade shoot? • Shear zone associated conduits may host local zones of dilatancy and hence much higher-grade shoots – stockwork zones will not and therefore be more uniform in grade • Barren hydrothermal breccias may be low-pressure tops to ore systems • Boiling zones may preferentially occur beneath more coherent “cap-rocks” 58 .

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