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Information in this presentation and some formats for the mineral summary

charts have been extracted from The Alteration Atlas (Thompson and
Thompson, 1996) and the SpecMIN software program.

Epithermal gold deposits occur largely in volcano-plutonic

arcs (island arcs as well as continental arcs) associated with
subduction zones, with ages similar to those of volcanism.
The deposits form at shallow depth, <1.5 km, and are hosted
mainly by volcanic rocks.

Schematic model of a volcanic-related hydrothermal system

(based on T. Leach diagrams).

Although 3 types of epithermal deposits can be

distinguished, the two most common end-member styles of
epithermal gold deposits are high sulfidation (HS) and low
sulfidation (LS).
The two deposit styles form from fluids of distinctly different
chemical composition in contrasting volcanic environment.
The ore of HS deposits is hosted by leached silicic rock
associated with acidic fluids generated in the volcanichydrothermal environment.
In contrast, the fluid responsible for formation of LS ore
veins is similar to waters tapped by drilling beneath hot
springs into geothermal systems, waters that are reduced
and neutral-pH.

This models represents the type of fossil hydrothermal

systems responsible for HS ore deposits (Wolhetz and
Heiken, 1992):

magmatic gases;




these gases condense and oxidize to form the acid fluids

responsible for leaching and argillic alteration of rocks
within the volcano and at the surface.

From Taylor (2007):

Acid-sulphate (high-sulphidation) type alteration fluids form
by the dissolution of large amounts of magmatic SO2 in hightemperature hydrothermal systems, and also by reaction of
host rocks with steam-heated meteoric waters acidified by
oxidation of H2S (probably of magmatic origin: e.g., Rye et
al., 1992; Bethke et al., 2005), or by dissolution of CO2.

This models represents the type of fossil hydrothermal

systems responsible for LS ore deposits (Wolhetz and
Heiken, 1992):
Characterized by adularia-sericite alteration and alkalichloride waters that have a neutral pH.
From Taylor (2007):
Altered rocks in low-sulphidation deposits generally comprise
two mineralogical zones: (1) inner zone of silicification
(replacement of wall rocks by quartz or chalcedonic silica);
and (2) outer zone of potassic -sericitic (phyllic) alteration
(quartz+K-feldspar and/or sericite, or sericite and illitesmectite).

Chlorite and carbonate are present in many deposits.

Argillic alteration (kaolinite and smectite) is common.

Summary of characteristics of low and high sulfidation


Worldwide distribution of selected epithermal deposits

(Taylor, 2007).

Many hydrothermal minerals

temperature and/or pH ranges.





Mapping the distribution of alteration minerals in areas of

epithermal prospects may allow the thermal and
geochemical zonation to be reconstructed, leading to a
model of the hydrology of the extinct hydrothermal system.
Alteration minerals are also crucial to distinguish the style of
deposit, LS or HS.

From Taylor (2007):

In both high-sulphidation and low-sulphidation deposit
subtypes, hydrothermal alteration mineral assemblages are
commonly regularly zoned about vein- or breccia-filled fluid

However they may be less regularly zoned in nearsurface environments, or where permeable rocks have
been replaced.

Characteristic alteration mineral assemblages in both deposit

subtypes can give way to propylitically altered rocks
epidote, and pyrite. The distribution and formation of the
earlier formed propylitic mineral assemblages generally
bears no obvious direct relationship to ore-related alteration
mineral assemblages.


A list of epithermal alteration minerals that can be identified

using reflectance spectroscopy is shown here.


The pH and temperature conditions of alteration can be

deduced based on mineral assemblages.


Another diagram showing the temperature stability of various

alteration minerals found in the epithermal environment.


Note: No scale is given because the widths of alteration

zones range from centimeters to tens of meters outward from
the vein (Wolhetz and Heiken, 1992).



VIS-NIR-SWIR plots showing some common propylitic

alteration minerals.


Chlorite is a very common alteration mineral and can occur

in a range of different alteration zones and deposit types.
This chart shows how chlorite can occur in a range of
different settings.



Advanced argillic alteration minerals are generally easy to

identify by SWIR features.


Alunite is a common constituent of advanced argillic

Characteristic features are listed.


Alunite can occur in a range of different settings.

Distinguishing between the type of alunite present can help
determine the type of system and relative location.



Characteristics of dickite.


Characteristic of pyrophyllite.


Pyrophyllite can occur in several different environments.


Characteristics of diaspore.



Characteristics of zunyite.



Weathered outcrops of steam-heated alteration are often

characterized by resistant quartz alunite 'ledges' and
extensive flanking bleached, clay-altered zones with
supergene alunite, jarosite and other limonite minerals
(Panteleyev, 1996).


VIS-NIR-SWIR features of common steam-heated argillic

alteration minerals.



This assemblage occurs as wallrock alteration around veins

and replacement zones in permeable lithologies.
Alteration may show a change in aluminum content and
temperature change away from vein in a progression from
illite  illite/smectite  montmorillonite.


Carbonates can be important in these systems (usually only

in LS environments) and may reflect condensation of CO2
from deeper boiling zones.


Oxidation and/or weathering of sulfide-bearing epithermal

deposits can result in the formation of significant secondary
iron ( metal) species.
The three most common iron oxide/sulfate minerals are
shown here in the VIS/NIR region.
In the VIS/NIR region the minerals goethite (hydroxide) and
hematite, (Fe-oxide) are commonly associated with jarosite
and have interference with its spectral features
Jarosite is rarely found in the pure end member state and is
usually mixed with goethite, as they are both products of the
same supergene cycles.


VIS-NIR features of common Fe oxides and sulfates are