New Cu, S, and Pb isotope data provide evidence for a magmatic source of metal(loid)s and sulfur in epithermal Au-Ag deposits even though their ore-forming solutions are composed primarily of heated meteoric (ground) waters. The apparent isotopic discrepancy between ore metals and ore-forming solutions, and even between the ore and associated gangue minerals, indicates two different sources of epithermal ore-forming constituents: (1) a shallow geothermal system that not only provides the bulk of water for the ore-forming solutions but also major chemical constituents leached from host rocks (silica, aluminum, potassium, sodium, calcium) to make gangue minerals and (2) metals and metalloids (As, Te, Sb, etc.) and sulfur (±Se) derived from deeper magma bodies. Isotopic data are consistent with either vapor-phase transport of metal(loids) and sulfur and their subsequent absorption by shallow geothermal waters or formation of metallic (Au, Ag, Cu phases) nanoparticles at depth from magmatic fluids prior to encountering the geothermal system. The latter is most consistent with ore textures that indicate physical transport and aggregation of nanoparticles were significant ore-forming processes. The recognition that epithermal Au-Ag ores form in tectonic settings that produce magmas capable of releasing metal-rich fluids necessary to form these deposits can refine exploration strategies that previously often have focused on locating fossil geothermal systems.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology
- Economic Geology