The Carlin-type deposits in Nevada (western USA) constitute the world's second-largest gold ore province. These structurally and stratigraphically controlled, sediment-hosted ore bodies are characterized by carbonate dissolution attending hydrothermal precipitation of gold-rich arsenian pyrite. The origin of the mineralizing fluids and the source of the gold remain debated. Conceptual models, favoring either sedimentary, metamorphic, or magmatic fluid sources, are based on isotopic tracers, giving ambiguous results. Here we use the trace element compositions of fluid inclusions to separate geochemical signals of the large-scale fluid source from effects of deposit-scale fluid interaction with the sedimentary host rocks. Specifically, we compare the ratios of Rb, K, B, As, Sr, and Ba between clearly magmatic-hydrothermal Cu-Au ores at Copper Canyon in the Battle Mountain–Eureka trend with the Gold Quarry and Chukar Footwall deposits on the Carlin trend that contain high-grade gold in similar sedimentary host rocks. Results indicate that both ore districts can be related to upper crustal hydrous magmatic intrusions, but are now exposed at different levels of erosion and formed at different distances from their magmatic fluid source. Fluid compositions are best explained by separation of a deep magmatic fluid into Rb-K–enriched brine and B-As-Au–enriched vapor, followed by cooling and contraction of the magmatic vapor phase to an epithermal liquid, which reacted with Sr-Ba–bearing sedimentary rocks during ascent and eventual precipitation of Au-rich arsenian pyrite.
- Received 11 July 2016.
- Revision received 18 September 2016.
- Accepted 20 September 2016.
- © Geological Society of America