All sediment-hosted gold deposits (as a single population) share one characteristic—they all have disseminated micron-sized invisible gold in sedimentary rocks. Sediment-hosted gold deposits are recognized in the Great Basin province of the western United States and in China along with a few recognized deposits in Indonesia, Iran, and Malaysia. Three new grade and tonnage models for sediment-hosted gold deposits are presented in this paper: (1) a general sediment-hosted gold type model, (2) a Carlin subtype model, and (3) a Chinese subtype model. These models are based on grade and tonnage data from a database compilation of 118 sediment-hosted gold deposits including a total of 123 global deposits. The new general grade and tonnage model for sediment-hosted gold deposits (n=118) has a median tonnage of 5.7 million metric tonnes (Mt) and a gold grade of 2.9 grams per tonne (g/t). This new grade and tonnage model is remarkable in that the estimated parameters of the resulting grade and tonnage distributions are comparable to the previous model of Mosier and others (1992). A notable change is in the reporting of silver in more than 10 percent of deposits; moreover, the previous model had not considered deposits in China. From this general grade and tonnage model, two significantly different subtypes of sediment-hosted gold deposits are differentiated: Carlin and Chinese. The Carlin subtype includes 88 deposits in the western United States, Indonesia, Iran, and Malaysia, with median tonnage and grade of 7.1 Mt and 2.0 g/t Au, respectively. The silver grade is 0.78 g/t Ag for the 10th percentile of deposits. The Chinese subtype represents 30 deposits in China, with a median tonnage of 3.9 Mt and medium grade of 4.6 g/t Au. Important differences are recognized in the mineralogy and alteration of the two sediment-hosted gold subtypes such as: increased sulfide minerals in the Chinese subtype and decalcification alteration dominant in the Carlin type. We therefore recommend using the appropriate grade and tonnage model presented in this study for mineral resource assessments depending on the geologic and mineralogical data available for a region. Tonnage and contained gold within the general sediment-hosted gold model are analyzed based on major geologic features such as tectonic setting and magmatic (dikes, sills, and stocks) or amagmatic environment. The results show a significant difference in tonnage and contained gold, with higher median values in deposits spatially associated with igneous rocks, regardless of structural style of the deposit. These results suggest that magmatic environments control mineralization intensity—an important consideration in the regional assessment of prospective areas for sediment-hosted gold deposits.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Sediment-hosted gold deposits of the world: database and grade and tonnage models
Originally posted May 5, 2014; Version 1.1 June 19, 2014
U.S. Geological Survey
Geology, Minerals, Energy and Geophysics Science Center