Precious metals associated with Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary igneous rocks of southwestern Alaska

Economic Geology Monographs
By:  and 
Edited by: Richard J. Goldfarb and Lance D. Miller



Placer gold and precious metal-bearing lode deposits of southwestern Alaska lie within a region 550 by 350 km, herein referred to as the Kuskokwim mineral belt. This mineral belt has yielded 100,240 kg (3.22 Moz) of gold, 12, 813 kg (412,000 oz) of silver, 1,377,412 kg (39,960 flasks) of mercury, and modest amounts of antimony and tungsten derived primarily from the late Cretaceous-early Tertiary igneous complexes of four major types: (1) alkali-calcic, comagmatic volcanic-plutonic complexes and isolated plutons, (2) calc-alkaline, meta-aluminous reduced plutons, (3) peraluminous alaskite or granite-porphyry sills and dike swarms, and (4) andesite-rhyolite subaerial volcanic rocks.

About 80 percent of the 77 to 52 Ma intrusive and volcanic rocks intrude or overlie the middle to Upper Cretaceous Kuskokwim Group sedimentary and volcanic rocks, as well as the Paleozoic-Mesozoic rocks of the Nixon Fork, Innoko, Goodnews, and Ruby preaccretionary terranes.

The major precious metal-bearing deposit types related to Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary igneous complexes of the Kuskokwim mineral belt are subdivided as follows: (1) plutonic-hosted copper-gold polymetallic stockwork, skarn, and vein deposits, (2) peraluminous granite-porphory-hosted gold polymetallic deposits, (3) plutonic-related, boron-enriched silver-tin polymetallic breccia pipes and replacement deposits, (4) gold and silver mineralization in epithermal systems, and (5) gold polymetallic heavy mineral placer deposits. Ten deposits genetically related to Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary intrusions contain minimum, inferred reserves amounting to 162,572 kg (5.23 Moz) of gold, 201,015 kg (6.46 Moz) silver, 12,160 metric tons (t) of tin, and 28,088 t of copper.

The lodes occur in veins, stockworks, breccia pipes, and replacement deposits that formed in epithermal to mesothermal temperature-pressure conditions. Fluid inclusion, isotopic age, mineral assemblage, alteration assemblage, and structural data indicate that many of the mineral deposits associated with Late Cretaceous-early tertiary volcanic and plutonic rocks represent geologically and spatially related, vertically zoned hydrothermal systems now exposed at several erosional levels.

Polymetallic gold deposits of the Kuskokwim mineral belt are probably related to 77 to 52 Ma plutonism and volcanism associated with a period of rapid, north-directed subduction of the Kula plate. The geologic interpretation suggests that igneous complexes of the Kuskokwim mineral belt formed in an intracontinental back-arc setting during a period of extensional, wrench fault tectonics.

The Kuskokwim mineral belt has many geologic and metallogenic features similar to other precious metal-bearing systems associated with arc-related igneous rocks such as the Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary Rocky Mountain alkalic province, the Jurassic Mount Milligan district of central British Columbia, the Andean orogen of South America, and the Okhotsk-Chukotka belt of northeast Asia.

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Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Precious metals associated with Late Cretaceous-early Tertiary igneous rocks of southwestern Alaska
Series title Economic Geology Monographs
ISBN 978-1-629495-56-9
Volume 9
Year Published 1997
Language English
Publisher Economic Geology Publishing Company
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 47 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Mineral Deposits of Alaska (Economic Geology Monographs, volume 9)
First page 242
Last page 286
Country United States
State Alaska
Other Geospatial Kuskokwim mineral belt
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