Field and laboratory investigations of the giant Betze gold orebody, the largest Carlin-type deposit known, in the north-central Carlin trend, Nevada document that the orebody is composed of individual high-grade oreshoots that contain different geologic, mineralogic, and textural characteristics. The orebody is typical of many structurally controlled Carlin-type deposits, and is hosted in thin-bedded, impure carbonate or limy siltstone, breccia bodies, and intrusive or calc-silicate rock. Most ores in the Betze orebody are highly sheared or brecciated and show evidence of syndeformational hydrothermal deposition. The interplay between rock types and pre- and syn-structural events accounts for most of the distribution and zoning of the oreshoots. Hydrothermal alteration is scale dependent, either in broad, pervasive alteration patterns, or in areas related to various oreshoots. Alteration includes decarbonatization (~decalcification) of carbonate units, argillization (illite-clay), and silicification. Patterns of alteration zoning in and surrounding the Betze orebody define a large porous, dilated volume of rock where high fluid flow predominated. Local restriction of alteration to narrow illite- and clay-rich selvages around unaltered marble or calc-silicate rock phacoids implies that fluid flow favored permeable structures and deformed zones. Gold mainly is present as disseminated sub-micron-sized particles, commonly associated with Asñrich pyrite, although one type of oreshoot contains micron-size free gold.
Oreshoots form a three-dimensional zoning pattern in the orebody within a WNW-striking structural zone of shearing and shear folding, termed the Dillon deformation zone (DDZ). Main types of oreshoots are: (1) rutile-bearing siliceous oreshoots; (2) illite-clay-pyrite oreshoots; (3) realgar- and orpiment-bearing oreshoots; (4) stibnite-bearing siliceous oreshoots; and (5) polymetallic oreshoots. Zoning patterns result from paragenetically early development of illite-clay-pyrite oreshoots during movement along the DDZ, and subsequent silicification and brecciation, associated with formation of the realgar- and orpiment-bearing, and stibnite-bearing oreshoots. Additional shear movement along the DDZ followed. Polymetallic oreshoots, which contain minerals rich in Hg, Cu, Zn, Ag, and native Au, were the last ores to form and overprint most earlier oreshoots.
Ore textures, gouge, phyllonitic rock, alteration style, and previously documented isotopic and fluid-inclusion data, all indicate a weakly to moderately saline fluid that ascended and cooled during structural displacements. Changing conditions, due to water-wall rock reactions and P-T changes during deformation, are probably responsible for fluid variation that resulted in zoning of the different oreshoots during dynamic interaction of the Au-bearing fluid with the wall rock. This investigation indicates that isolated As-, Sb-, and Hg-rich ores are separate parts of a larger single gold system. This large gold system was contemporaneous with post-Jurassic brittle-ductile deformation, on the basis of deformed mineralized pods of the Jurassic Goldstrike pluton, and large-scale hydrothermal flow, and together they appear to be an integral part of the formation of some Carlin-type gold deposits in north-central Nevada.