Article in Geology


A metasedimentary source of gold in Archean orogenic gold deposits

Iain K. Pitcairn, Nikolaos Leventis, Georges Beaudoin, Stephane Faure, Carl Guilmette, and Benoît Dubé

The sources of metals enriched in Archean orogenic gold deposits have long been debated. Metasedimentary rocks, which are generally accepted as the main metal source in Phanerozoic deposits, are less abundant in Archean greenstone belts and commonly discounted as a viable metal source for Archean deposits. We report ultralow-detection-limit gold and trace-element concentrations from a suite of metamorphosed sedimentary rocks from the Abitibi belt and Pontiac subprovince, Superior Province, Canada. Systematic decreases in the Au content with increasing metamorphic grade indicate that Au was mobilized during prograde metamorphism. Mass balance calculations show that over 10 t of Au, 30,000 t of As, and 600 t of Sb were mobilized from 1 km3 of Pontiac subprovince sedimentary rock metamorphosed to the sillimanite metamorphic zone. The total gold resource in orogenic gold deposits in the southern Abitibi belt (7500 t Au) is only 3% of the Au mobilized from the estimated total volume of high-metamorphic-grade Pontiac sedimentary rock in the region (25,000 km3), indicating that sedimentary rocks are a major contributor of metals to the orogenic gold deposits in the southern Abitibi belt.