Native gold is a mineral composed of Au, Ag and Cu in solid solution and it usually contains one or more trace metals as lattice impurities, as mineral inclusions, in grain boundaries or in surface coatings. Alloy proportions of Au, Ag and Cu, together with certain other elements, can be thought of as constituting a gold "signature". Gold is associated with a great variety of ore deposits and has characteristic signatures for each of several types of ore deposits. Signatures for gold derived from igneous-metamorphic, hypothermal, mesothermal and epithermal deposits reflect conditions of ore formation by their content of Ag, Cu and characteristic associated elements. At higher temperatures of ore formation, gold has low Ag and high Cu content, and Bi and Pb are the most abundant trace elements. But at lower temperatures of ore formation, Ag is high, Cu is low, and Pb is the most abundant trace element. The same trend in gold signatures is observable in gold mining districts, such as Central City, Colorado, where zoning as shown by mineral assemblages indicates ore deposition at progressively lower temperatures as the distance from a central high-temperature zone increases. The signatures of gold may be useful in searching for porphyry Cu deposits. Signatures from Butte (Montana), Mineral Park (Arizona) and Cala Abajo (Puerto Rico), on the basis of limited sampling, are similar and distinctive. They are characterized by a similar assemblage of trace elements and are relatively high in both Ag and Cu. Another application of gold compositional data is in tracing placer gold to its bedrock source. For example, the Ag content of placer gold in the Tarryall district of Colorado differed from that of nearly all of the bedrock sources of gold found by early prospectors. However, one lightly prospected area peripheral to the Tertiary quartz monzonite stock at Montgomery Gulch contains gold with a Ag content similar to that of the placer gold. This area is the most likely source of the gold in the productive placers and may be a potential exploration target. Gold signatures may be useful in prospecting for metals other than gold. Several metals of low crustal abundance - notably Sn, W, Mo and the Pt group metals - are detected in analyses of some gold samples and may indicate economic deposits of these metals. ?? 1977.
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Application of gold compositional analyses to mineral exploration in the United States