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A belt of small but numerous mercury deposits extends for about 500 km in the Kuskokwim River region of southwestern Alaska. The southwestern Alaska mercury belt is part of widespread mercury deposits of the circumPacific region that are similar to other mercury deposits throughout the world because they are epithermal with formation temperatures of about 200??C, the ore is dominantly cinnabar with Hg-Sb-As??Au geochemistry, and mineralized forms include vein, vein breccias, stockworks, replacements, and disseminations. The southwestern Alaska mercury belt has produced about 1,400 t of mercury, which is small on an international scale. However, additional mercury deposits are likely to be discovered because the terrain is topographically low with significant vegetation cover. Anomalous concentrations of gold in cinnabar ore suggest that gold deposits are possible in higher temperature environments below some of the Alaska mercury deposits. We correlate mineralization of the southwestern Alaska mercury deposits with Late Cretaceous and early Tertiary igneous activity. Our 40Ar/39Ar ages of 70??3 Ma from hydrothermal sericites in the mercury deposits indicate a temporal association of igneous activity and mineralization. Furthermore, we suggest that our geological and geochemical data from the mercury deposits indicate that ore fluids were generated primarily in surrounding sedimentary wall rocks when they were cut by Late Cretaceous and early Tertiary intrusions. In our ore genesis model, igneous activity provided the heat to initiate dehydration reactions and expel fluids from hydrous minerals and formational waters in the surrounding sedimentary wall rocks, causing thermal convection and hydrothermal fluid flow through permeable rocks and along fractures and faults. Our isotopic data from sulfide and alteration minerals of the mercury deposits indicate that ore fluids were derived from multiple sources, with most ore fluids originating from the sedimentary wall rocks.
Additional Publication Details
The southwestern alaska mercury belt and its relationship to the circum-pacific metallogenic mercury province