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Formation of the Campbell-Red Lake gold deposit by H2O-poor, CO2-dominated fluids

Abstract

The Campbell-Red Lake gold deposit in the Red Lake greenstone belt, with a total of approximately 840 t of gold (past production + reserves) and an average grade of 21 g/t Au, is one of the largest and richest Archean gold deposits in Canada. Gold mineralization is mainly associated with silicification and arsenopyrite that replace carbonate veins, breccias and wallrock selvages. The carbonate veins and breccias, which are composed of ankerite ± quartz and characterized by crustiform–cockade textures, were formed before and/or in the early stage of penetrative ductile deformation, whereas silicification, arsenopyrite replacement and gold mineralization were coeval with deformation. Microthermometry and laser Raman spectroscopy indicate that fluid inclusions in ankerite and associated quartz (Q1) and main ore-stage quartz (Q2) are predominantly carbonic, composed mainly of CO2, with minor CH4 and N2. Aqueous and aqueous–carbonic inclusions are extremely rare in both ankerite and quartz. H2O was not detected by laser Raman spectroscopic analyses of individual carbonic inclusions and by gas chromatographic analyses of bulk samples of ankerite and main ore-stage quartz (Q2). Fluid inclusions in post-mineralization quartz (Q3) are also mainly carbonic, but proportions of aqueous and aqueous–carbonic inclusions are present. Trace amounts of H2S were detected by laser Raman spectroscopy in some carbonic inclusions in Q2 and Q3, and by gas chromatographic analyses of bulk samples of ankerite and Q2. 3He/4He ratios of bulk fluid inclusions range from 0.008 to 0.016 Ra in samples of arsenopyrite and gold. Homogenization temperatures (T h–CO2) of carbonic inclusions are highly variable (from −4.1 to +30.4°C; mostly to liquid, some to vapor), but the spreads within individual fluid inclusion assemblages (FIAs) are relatively small (within 0.5 to 10.3°C). Carbonic inclusions occur both in FIAs with narrow T h–CO2 ranges and in those with relatively large T h–CO2 variations. The predominance of carbonic fluid inclusions has been previously reported in a few other gold deposits, and its significance for gold metallogeny has been debated. Some authors have proposed that formation of the carbonic fluid inclusions and their predominance is due to post-trapping leakage of water from aqueous–carbonic inclusions (H2O leakage model), whereas others have proposed that they reflect preferential trapping of the CO2-dominated vapor in an immiscible aqueous–carbonic mixture (fluid unmixing model), or represent an unusually H2O-poor, CO2-dominated fluid (single carbonic fluid model). Based on the FIA analysis reported in this study, we argue that although post-trapping modifications and host mineral deformation may have altered the fluid inclusions in varying degrees, these processes were not solely responsible for the formation of the carbonic inclusions. The single carbonic fluid model best explains the extreme rarity of aqueous inclusions but lacks the support of experimental data that might indicate the viability of significant transport of silica and gold in a carbonic fluid. In contrast, the weakness of the unmixing model is that it lacks unequivocal petrographic evidence of phase separation. If the unmixing model were to be applied, the fluid prior to unmixing would have to be much more enriched in carbonic species and poorer in water than in most orogenic gold deposits in order to explain the predominance of carbonic inclusions. The H2O-poor, CO2-dominated fluid may have been the product of high-grade metamorphism or early degassing of magmatic intrusions, or could have resulted from the accumulation of vapor produced by phase separation external to the site of mineralization.

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Acknowledgements

Financial support from the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) (Dubé; and contributions to Chi) and NSERC (Chi and Williams-Jones) are acknowledged. We would like to thank Finley Stuart of Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre for He and Ar isotope analysis, Michael S.J. Mlynarczyk (McGill University) for GC analysis, and Therese Lhomme (CREGU -UMR G2R, Nancy, France) for laser Raman analysis. Thanks to M. Burns, I. Jonasson and I. Bilot of the GSC for the preparation of the arsenopyrite and gold concentrates. The staff of Goldcorp Inc., in particular Gilles Filion, Stephen McGibbon, Rob Penczak, Tim Twomey, John Kovala, Mark Epp and Michael Dehn are thanked for their scientific contribution, logistic and financial support. Rob Penczak is especially thanked for sharing his knowledge of the entire Campbell-Red Lake deposit and for providing some of the samples included in this study. Jayanta Guha, Michel Malo, Mary Sanborn-Barrie, Tom Skulski, Jack Parker, François Robert, Howard Poulsen, Vic Wall and Matt Ball are thanked for constructive discussions. Finally, we would like to thank Larry Meinert, Ronald Bakker, Phillip Brown and Georges Beaudoin for their detailed review of the manuscript, which has greatly improved the quality of the paper.

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Correspondence to Guoxiang Chi.

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Geological Survey of Canada contribution 2004383.

Editorial handling: G. Beaudoin

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Chi, G., Dubé, B., Williamson, K. et al. Formation of the Campbell-Red Lake gold deposit by H2O-poor, CO2-dominated fluids. Miner Deposita 40, 726 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-005-0029-3

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Keywords

  • Campbell-Red Lake
  • Gold deposits
  • Fluid inclusions
  • Carbonic
  • Gold transport