More than 420 million oz of gold were concentrated in circum-Pacific synorogenic quartz lodes mainly during two periods of continental growth, one along the Gondwanan margin in the Palaeozoic and the other in the northern Pacific basin between 170 and 50 Ma. These ores have many features in common and can be grouped into a single type of lode gold deposit widespread throughout clastic sedimentary-rock dominant terranes.
The auriferous veins contain only a few percent sulphide minerals, have gold:silver ratios typically greater than 1:1, show a distinct association with medium grade metamorphic rocks, and may be associated with large-scale fault zones. Ore fluids are consistently of low salinity and are CO2-rich.
In the early and middle Palaeozoic in the southern Pacific basin, a single immense turbidite sequence was added to the eastern margin of Gondwanaland. Deformation of these rocks in southeastern Australia was accompanied by deposition of at least 80 million oz of gold in the Victorian sector of the Lachlan fold belt mainly during the Middle and Late Devonian. Lesser Devonian gold accumulations characterized the more northerly parts of the Gondwanan margin within the Hodgkinson–Broken River and Thomson fold belts.
Additional lodes were emplaced in this flyschoid sequence in Devonian or earlier Palaeozoic times in what is now the Buller terrane, Westland, New Zealand. Minor post-Devonian growth of Gondwanaland included terrane collision and formation of gold-bearing veins in the Permian in Australia's New England fold belt and in the Jurassic-Early Cretaceous in New Zealand's Otago schists.
Collision and accretion of dozens of terranes for a 100-m.y.-long period against the western margin of North America and eastern margin of Eurasia led to widespread, latest Jurassic to Eocene gold veining in the northern Pacific basin. In the former location, Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous veins and related placer deposits along the western margin of the Sierra Nevada batholith have yielded more than 100 million oz of gold.
Additional significant ore-forming events during the development of North America's Cordilleran orogen included those in the Klamath Mountains region, California in the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous; the Klondike district, Yukon by the Early Cretaceous; the Nome and Fairbanks districts, Alaska, and the Bridge River district, British Columbia in the middle Cretaceous; and the Juneau gold belt, Alaska in the Eocene. Gold-bearing veins deposited during the Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous terrane collision that formed the present-day Russian Far East have been the source for more than 130 million oz of placer gold.
The abundance of gold-bearing quartz-carbonate veins throughout the Gondwanan, North American and Eurasian continental margins suggests the migration and concentration of large fluid volumes during continental growth. Such volumes could be released during orogenic heating of hydrous silicate mineral phases within accreted marine strata.
The common temporal association between gold veining and magmatism around the Pacific Rim reflects these thermal episodes. Melting of the lower thickened crust during arc formation, slab rollback and extensional tectonism, and subduction of a slab window beneath the seaward part of the forearc region can all provide the required heat for initiation of the ore-forming processes.
The study was published in the journal Geology.