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Deposit-scale structural controls on orogenic gold deposits: an integrated, physical process–based hypothesis and practical targeting implications

  • Jon M. A. HronskyEmail author
Article

Abstract

The application of deposit-scale structural targeting to orogenic gold deposits is primarily concerned with locating volumes of higher-grade mineralisation (ore shoots) within a broader, host structural system. Although empirical correlations between structural heterogeneities and ore shoots have long been noted and certain key physical processes elucidated, no integrated, system-based synthesis has been previously published. However, linking the existing understanding with important recent advances in understanding of the dynamic physical processes of emplacement of hydrothermal ore systems now provides the opportunity to develop such a synthesis. The most important of these new concepts includes the idea that deposits form in vertically extensive conduit systems linking source to sink and the related concept of the phenomena of injection-driven swarm behaviour. Integration of all of these elements leads to the proposal of a coherent physical process–based model for the structural emplacement of orogenic gold systems and the local formation of gold-enriched volumes. This model considers that an orogenic gold deposit must be viewed from the perspective of three different geometric elements, each with a particular meaning in terms of physical process, and which typically relate to different scales. These elements include (a) the integrated swarm volume (ISV), which is the rock volume which bounds the limits of the mineralisation-hosting structural system and is effectively the geological entity that defines a deposit; (b) fluid pathways, which are 3D pathways through the ISV where dynamic ore fluid emplacement has been repeatedly strongly focused; and (c) ore shoots, which are localised volumes of high-grade gold deposition that are interpreted to represent volumes of anomalous dilation or second-order valve sites within host fluid pathways. Consideration of this new framework suggests significant potential to improve the effectiveness of structural targeting at the deposit scale. In particular, ore shoots are only expected within fluid pathways, and equivalent dilatant zones outside such pathways are predicted to be barren. A key theme is that the rheological architecture of the host rock mass is the most important predictive input to targeting, both at the scale of emplacement of the ore-hosting conduit system and the scale of localised ore shoots.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The concepts presented here have evolved over a long period of time, informed by much practical experience and the contributions of many exploration and mine geologists to understanding that critical issue of predicting the location of the next high-grade ore shoot. In particular, the author would like to acknowledge the helpful discussions over the years with the following individuals: Ed Baltis, Graham Begg, David Groves, Nick Hayward, Cam McCuaig, John Miller and Walter Witt. The seminal work of Rick Sibson and Stephen Cox in elucidating the critical physical processes in orogenic gold ore fluid emplacement is acknowledged as a critical underpinning for this work. Newcrest Mining is acknowledged and thanked for allowing images from unpublished company work to be included in this paper. Graham Begg is thanked for reading this paper before submission and providing helpful input. The paper was reviewed by Stephen Cox and Julian Vearncombe. David Groves is thanked for his very helpful editorial assistance. Chief Editor Bernd Lehmann is also thanked for his assistance.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Western Mining ServicesWest PerthAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Exploration Targeting (M006), School of Earth SciencesThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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