The ca. 126–120 Ma Au deposits of the Jiaodong Peninsula, eastern China, define the country's largest gold province with an overall endowment estimated as >3000 t Au. The vein and disseminated ores are hosted by NE- to NNE-trending brittle normal faults that parallel the margins of ca. 165–150 Ma, deeply emplaced, lower crustal melt granites. The deposits are sited along the faults for many tens of kilometers and the larger orebodies are associated with dilatational jogs. Country rocks to the granites are Precambrian high-grade metamorphic rocks located on both sides of a Triassic suture between the North and South China blocks. During early Mesozoic convergent deformation, the ore-hosting structures developed as ductile thrust faults that were subsequently reactivated during Early Cretaceous “Yanshanian” intracontinental extensional deformation and associated gold formation. Classification of the gold deposits remains problematic. Many features resemble those typical of orogenic Au including the linear structural distribution of the deposits, mineralization style, ore and alteration assemblages, and ore fluid chemistry. However, Phanerozoic orogenic Au deposits are formed by prograde metamorphism of accreted oceanic rocks in Cordilleran-style orogens. The Jiaodong deposits, in contrast, formed within two Precambrian blocks approximately 2 billion years after devolatilization of the country rocks, and thus require a model that involves alternative fluid and metal sources for the ores. A widespread suite of ca. 130–123 Ma granodiorites overlaps temporally with the ores, but shows a poor spatial association with the deposits. Furthermore, the deposit distribution and mineralization style is atypical of ores formed from nearby magmas. The ore concentration requires fluid focusing during some type of sub-crustal thermal event, which could be broadly related to a combination of coeval lithospheric thinning, asthenospheric upwelling, paleo-Pacific plate subduction, and seismicity along the continental-scale Tan-Lu fault. Possible ore genesis scenarios include those where ore fluids were produced directly by the metamorphism of oceanic lithosphere and overlying sediment on the subducting paleo-Pacific slab, or by devolatilization of an enriched mantle wedge above the slab. Both the sulfur and gold could be sourced from either the oceanic sediments or the serpentinized mantle. A better understanding of the architecture of the paleo-Pacific slab during Early Cretaceous below the eastern margin of China is essential to determination of the validity of possible models.
Additional publication details
The dilemma of the Jiaodong gold deposits: are they unique?
Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center