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A Comparison of Carlin-type Deposits in Nevada


and Yukon
Conference Paper January 2013

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Special Publication 17, pp. 389401

Chapter 13
A Comparison of Carlin-type Deposits in Nevada and Yukon
Greg B. Arehart,1, Michael Ressel,2 Rob Carne,3 and John Muntean4
1 Geological

Sciences and Engineering, MS-172, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, Nevada 89557

2 Newmont
3 ATAC

Mining Co., 1655 Mountain City Highway, Elko, Nevada 89801

Resources Ltd., 1016-510 West Hastings St., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5E 1A6

4 Nevada

Bureau of Mines & Geology, University of Nevada, Reno, Reno, Nevada 89557

Abstract
Carlin-type ores have been reported in various locations around the world, but to date, the major economic
deposits have been restricted to the Great Basin of the southwestern United States. Recent discoveries in eastcentral Yukon have many characteristics of Carlin-type deposits, and hold promise of great potential for new
discoveries of economic importance. Both regions share commonalities of geologic history, including initial
deposition of Proterozoic-Paleozoic calcareous host rocks on the passive margin of the fragmented Rodinian
supercontinent. This was followed by compressional tectonism and continental accretion that included thrust
faulting and plutonism through the late Paleozoic and Mesozoic. Many deposits in the Great Basin are associated with post-accretionary magmatism as the tectonic environment shifted to an extensional regime. However,
at this early stage of investigation, the timing of mineralization in Yukon is not clear; the deposits may be geologically related to Late Cretaceous post-accretionary plutons. Associated gold skarn-style mineralization is present
in both regions. Following mineralization, both regions experienced significant right-lateral transcurrent tectonism on their western margins; no known Carlin-type mineralization is associated with this latest tectonism.
Mineralization in both areas comprises finely disseminated gold associated with arsenian pyrite hosted in
calcareous siltstones-sandstones to silty carbonates, although other rock types locally host significant mineralization. Other hydrothermal minerals present in these systems include realgar/orpiment, stibnite, fluorite,
barite, and quartz. Temperature of deposition appears to be near 225C. Hydrothermal alteration consists of
decarbonatization, silicification, and argillization. Gold/silver is typically high at 1:1 or higher. Trace elements
that show good correlation with gold include thallium, arsenic, antimony, mercury, and to a lesser extent antimony and silver.
In general, the deposits from the two areas are quite similar in terms of their tectonic history, and the processes and geochemistry appear to be very similar. The presence of extension and ore-related magmatism in
Nevada appears to be a component that is much less clear in the Yukon Territory.

Introduction
Gold from Carlin-type deposits in the Great Basin (which
encompasses parts of several states but is dominated by
Nevada; Fig. 1) comprises ~5.5% of global gold production.
The deposits are characterized by extremely fine grained disseminated gold, hosted primarily by arsenian pyrite at the
atomic level (Wells and Mullens, 1973; Arehart et al., 1993).
Host rocks are dominated by silty carbonate rocks, although
ore concentrations are also found in siliceous and silicified
rocks as well as intrusive rocks. The ores range from stratiform to structurally controlled. Much effort over the past
two decades has been focused on understanding the origin of
these deposits with one goal being development of an exploration model that can be applied to other areas of the world.
Carlin-type and Carlin-like deposits have been reported
elsewhere in the world but, to date, none of these have developed the grades and tonnages of those found in the Great
Basin. Recent discoveries in east-central Yukon Territory
(Fig. 1) suggest great potential for Carlin-type deposits in that
region. Preliminary data are consistent with models for Carlin-type deposits in the Great Basin, although there are some
differences. This paper will review and compare the geologic
Corresponding

author: e-mail, arehart@unr.edu

settings and characteristics of Carlin-type deposits in both


areas with a goal of assessing how the model developed in the
Great Basin fits new discoveries in Yukon.
Tectonic and Geologic Setting
Key elements of crustal architecture that control the formation of Carlin-type deposits are as follows: (1) continental
rifting and formation of passive margin, followed by passive
margin sedimentation that formed the ideal host rocks; (2)
a long history of subsequent compressional tectonics that
included folding, faulting, and pluton emplacement, all of
which were instrumental in developing additional fluid flow
paths; and (3) deep-seated, long-lived structures that were
formed as part of the architecture and prior to introduction
and precipitation of gold. This architecture provided an ideal
mix of permeable fluid pathways and impermeable aquitards.
Rifting and passive margin sedimentation
Both the Great Basin and Yukon were on the margin of the
rifted Rodinian supercontinent (Fig. 1). Following rifting,
both areas became passive margins from the late Proterozoic
through mid-Paleozoic. In the Great Basin, there is a Proterozoic-Cambrian detrital sequence of rocks that were shed
off of the continent onto the receding continental margin as

389

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AREHART ET AL.

A B

C D

Fig. 1. (A) Location map showing Carlin-type deposits/districts (red stars) in Nevada and Yukon. (B) Tectonic element map
of Nevada and surrounding parts of the Great Basin showing location of Carlin-type deposits (red dots) and Paleozoic bedded
barite deposits (green dots). Inferred continental crust (gray) is shown east of the SrI = 0.706 line (yellow) with accreted terranes to the west (light blue) and the Mesozoic magmatic arc (green). Lead isotope provinces of Zartman (1974) are shown in
orange. The boundary between inferred Archean and Proterozoic crust is shown by the wavy blue line. Roberts Mountains
thrust (RMT) and Sevier thrust (ST) are shown for reference. The area of Tertiary extension and direction of extension is
shown in random dash pattern and gray arrows. Pink areas are exposed core complexes. Major linear arrays of Carlin-type
deposits are Carlin trend (CT), Jerritt Canyon (JC), Getchell trend (GT) and Battle Mountain-Eureka trend (BME; also
known as the Cortez trend). (C) Terrane map of Yukon showing major crustal features (after Colpron and Nelson, 2011).
Carlin-type occurrences are on the northern and eastern margin of the Selwyn basin and are shown by the red stars and
include: Brewery Creek (BC); the Rackla belt (RB) that contains several occurrences including Osiris, Conrad, and Anubis;
the adjacent Anthill Resources prospects (AR, including the Venus zone); and the Brick-Neve prospect (BN). Green dots show
occurrences of sedimentary barite in Selwyn basin. DT = Dawson thrust; RFA = Richardson fault array; RST = Robert Service
thrust; TT = Tombstone thrust. SrI 0.706 line for Mesozoic granitoids after Armstrong (1988). Areas underlain by Stikinia
(ST) and southwest of Denali fault have SrI < 0.704. D. Rodinian supercontinent just prior to breakup at ~700 Ma showing the
location of the future Great Basin and Yukon along the rifted margin of the continent. Redrawn from Hoffman (1991).

A COMPARISON OF CARLIN-TYPE DEPOSITS IN NEVADA AND YUKON

rifting proceeded. In eastern Nevada, this detrital sequence


was overlain by Cambrian through Devonian carbonate
shelf rocks that graded westward to co-temporal deep-water
sedimentary rocks (primarily shale and chert). In the location of future Carlin-type deposits in eastern Nevada, these
carbonates comprise primarily slope and basin facies rocks;
although some Carlin-type deposits are found in other facies,
the dominant hosts for gold mineralization are the coarser
clastic carbonate rocks of the slope and basin environment
(Fig. 2A). Paleozoic fault reactivation and hydrothermal activity occurred, manifested primarily as SEDEX barite deposits
(Fig. 1B).
Similar geologic events occurred in Yukon as the western
margin of North America developed a passive margin (Fig.
2B). Neoproterozoic rocks that were deposited as part of the
clastic sequence include the Windermere Supergroup and
Hyland Group, including the Narchilla and Algae formations,
and overlying Cambrian units (Gordey and Anderson, 1993;
Colpron et al., 2013). These were followed by development
of the Selwyn basin deep-water sedimentary sequence (shale
and chert of the Road River Group), and contemporaneous
platform margin carbonate and shelf-slope deposits (e.g., Bouvette Formation). Similar to the Great Basin, continued faulting and hydrothermal activity resulted in massive sulfide and
bedded barite deposits in the Selwyn basin (Fig. 1C; Goodfellow, 2007), although the presence of significant massive

391

sulfide deposits suggests that the Selwyn basin paleochemistry was probably more reducing than that of the Great Basin
(Fig. 2B). Deposits that have been suggested to be Carlintype in Selwyn basin are hosted by sedimentary rocks that
range in age from Neoproterozoic to Mississippian (Turner
et al., 1989).
The development of shelf-slope, silty-sandy carbonates on
the margin of the craton was important in that these rocks
are favorable for hydrothermal fluid flow. The thin-bedded
units (Fig. 3) allowed preferential bedding-plane deformation, which created permeability. Debris flows and turbidites
that are characteristic of this environment have high initial
porosity/permeability and contain clasts with a range of grain
size, rheology and reactivity, all of which ultimately facilitate
hydrothermal fluid flow. Syn-sedimentary pyrite provided
nucleation sites for deposition of arsenian pyrite and associated gold, because of surface chemistry effects. The carbonaceous nature of many of these rocks kept fluids reduced
and allowed extensive fluid-rock interaction. Quartzose silt
and partially leached (sanded) dolomite grains allow the rock
to maintain an open framework during decarbonatization and
gold deposition.
Compressional tectonism
Sometime in the mid-Paleozoic, the tectonic environment
of both regions shifted to a more active margin as the first of

Fig. 2. (A) Schematic diagram showing carbonate facies that dominated the continental passive margin in the Great
Basin in early to mid-Paleozoic, and the ultimate location of much of the Carlin-type ore (CTD ore). BS = boundstone, GS
= grainstone, MS = mudstone, PS = packstone, WS = wackestone, Dolo = dolomite. Redrawn and modified from Cook and
Corboy (2004). (B) Schematic diagram of the facies of the Selwyn Basin, redrawn and modified from Goodfellow (2007). CB
= cratonic basement, TF = future Tintina fault, RS = reef sediments, AMR = alkalic mafic rocks. Approximate stratigraphic
position of mineralization is shown by the red star. Many of the Carlin-type prospects in Yukon have been found on the northern and eastern margins of the Selwyn Basin.

392

AREHART ET AL.

Fig. 3. (A) Laminated silty carbonates from the Roberts Mountains Formation in Maggie Creek Canyon, Nevada (Carlin
trend). These and similar rocks form the major host for Carlin-type deposits in Nevada. (B) Laminated calcareous siltstones
from the Osiris prospect in the Rackla belt, Yukon. Note the realgar in the bottom and right of the photo, virtually at the
surface. Photo courtesy of Joan Carne.

numerous terranes began approaching western North America. In the Great Basin, this was manifested as the Roberts
Mountains thrust (Fig. 1B), which placed deep-water lower
Paleozoic chert and shale over temporally equivalent shelfslope carbonates during the Late Devonian-Early Mississippian Antler orogeny (Roberts, 1949). This ultimately resulted
in a less permeable barrier that helped focus hydrothermal
fluids at a later time. Additional episodes of thrusting (e.g.,
Golconda thrust, Fencemaker thrust) occurred in the western
Great Basin as the continent accreted terranes through the
Mesozoic, producing a broad, overthickened wedge, termed
the Nevadaplano (e.g., Dickinson, 2006, 2011). Carlin-type
gold mineralization is found in carbonate rocks underlying the
overthrust deep-water siliciclastic rocks in many cases.
In Yukon, although convergent margin tectonism was prevalent west of the Selwyn basin, the area where Carlin-type
deposits are currently sited, was the site of back-arc extension
in Devonian-Mississippian (e.g., Gordey et al., 1987; Turner
et al., 1989; Smith et al., 1993; Colpron et al., 2007). Mesozoic
thrust faulting similar to the Great Basin occurred along the
Tombstone, Robert Service, and Dawson thrusts in central
Yukon (Fig. 1C; Mair et al., 2006). These thrust faults involve
Jurassic rocks in their footwalls and are locally intruded by
plutons of the mid-Cretaceous Tombstone plutonic suite
(Murphy, 1997). Details of the relationship of gold mineralization in the Yukon Territory to thrust faults has not yet been
clearly delineated, although the exposed thrust faults are close
to mineralization at the regional scale, and thrust faults are
present in mineralized zones (e.g., Brewery Creek, Osiris).
In addition to thrusting, Mesozoic subduction in both
regions resulted in a plethora of generally post-accretionary
plutonic rocks emplaced throughout the Great Basin including in the area of major Carlin-type deposits. Mesozoic plutonic rocks in the Great Basin fall into two major ages: Jurassic
(140160 Ma) and Cretaceous (80120 Ma). These rocks are
I- and S-type granitoids that were emplaced at middle to
upper crustal levels. At least a few smaller Carlin-like gold

deposits appear spatially and temporally related to these plutons (Hitchborn et al., 1996), although there are few hard data
to confirm such a link. Plutonism in Yukon Territory was concentrated in the Cretaceous northeast of Tintina fault, with
intrusions spanning from 120 to 65 Ma, although most intrusions in the Selwyn Basin area, where Carlin-type deposits are
located, are within a tight range from 98 to 90 Ma.
Post-accretionary magmatism and inception of extension
Magmatism in the Great Basin waned toward the end of
the Cretaceous as the Andean-style margin that had existed
changed to flat-slab subduction, thus causing magmatism to
migrate eastward out of the Great Basin. As early as 45 Ma,
the Great Basin began an episode of extensional tectonism
and concomitant magmatism (both volcanic and plutonic) that
continues today. Early Tertiary extension in the Great Basin,
although controversial, is thought to have been modest, with
much greater extension occurring in the Oligocene and Miocene (Ressel and Henry, 2006). Concomitant with an increase
in crustal extension from early to mid-Tertiary time, the
character of Tertiary magmatism changed dramatically from
dominantly intermediate lava and dome fields and underlying intermediate intrusions in the Eocene to bimodal assemblages and a preponderance of large, silicic, caldera complexes
in the Oligocene and Miocene. Tertiary igneous activity was
related to rollback of the Farallon slab (Humphreys, 1995),
producing a southwestward rapid migration of calc-alkaline
magmatism in the Great Basin from the late Eocene through
the Miocene.
Most Great Basin Carlin-type deposits, including the largest
and most productive deposits, are temporally associated with
the inception of Tertiary magmatism in the late Eocene, with
only modest amounts of crustal extension. An abundance of
field relationships and isotopic ages demonstrate that Eocene
intrusions bracket Carlin-type alteration and mineralization in
several important deposits and districts (e.g., Arehart et al.,
2003; Tretbar et al., 2000; Henry and Boden, 1998; Ressel and

A COMPARISON OF CARLIN-TYPE DEPOSITS IN NEVADA AND YUKON

Henry, 2006). In addition, late Eocene intrusions are responsible for other major gold deposits including skarn (e.g.,
Fortitude-Phoenix, McCoy) and distal-disseminated Au-Ag
deposits (e.g., Cove, Lone Tree, Marigold), all of which are
broadly associated with geochemically reduced (arsenopyrite,
pyrrhotite, bismuthinite) mineral assemblages.
By comparison, intense post-accretionary magmatism in central and eastern Yukon occurred between 98 Ma and 90 Ma.
Magmatism was characterized by the emplacement of relatively reduced, metaluminous to weakly peraluminous granitoids (Mortensen et al., 2000; Hart et al., 2002); volcanic rocks
are relatively rare, possibly because of greater amounts of
unroofing relative to the Eocene in the northern Great Basin.
In the Selwyn Basin, the older (9894 Ma) and presumably
deeper-seated plutons are associated with tungsten deposits,
whereas gold skarns (e.g., Mike Lake) and other intrusionrelated gold deposits (e.g., Brewery Creek, Dublin Gulch,
Scheelite Dome) are related to the younger (9390 Ma)
Tombstone suite. Like the Great Basin Eocene examples,
intrusion-related gold deposits of the Tombstone suite are
characterized by an abundance of reduced mineral assemblages, including pyrrhotite, arsenopyrite, and bismuthinite.
Whereas Carlin-type deposits in the Great Basin are broadly
related to Eocene magmatism and extension, there is no clear
evidence for major crustal extension post-dating the emplacement of Tombstone intrusions in the Selwyn Basin. Certainly,
no evidence for high-magnitude extension like that exhibited
in the late Tertiary of the Great Basin is shown in the Selwyn Basin, although movement associated with displacement
along the Tintina fault is permissive of a local extensional environment (e.g., Till et al., 2007).
Thus, similarities between geologic settings of Carlin-type
deposits of the Selwyn Basin and the Great Basin are: (1) shortlived, post-accretionary intermediate intrusions (9390 Ma vs.
4035 Ma, respectively); (2) a broadly back-arc tectonic setting; and (3) an association with gold skarn and other reduced,
intrusion-related gold deposits. The lack of recognized crustal
extension in the Selwyn Basin is among the differences
between the two regions, although it must be stressed that

393

large-magnitude extension in the Great Basin post-dated the


formation of Carlin-type deposits there (Henry and Ressel,
2000; Henry et al., 2001; Ressel and Henry, 2006; Henry,
2008). A major uncertainty in Yukon is the ages of Carlin-type
deposits and until robust age information exists, the setting in
which the deposits formed will remain in question.
More recent tectonism in both areas is related to transcurrent motion along major right-lateral strike-slip faults,
although in both areas, major faults are located west of the
area of Carlin-type deposits. In the Great Basin, development
of right-lateral shear along the Walker Lane and subsidiary
belts is believed to have begun concurrent with northward
migration of the Mendocino triple junction beginning in the
late Miocene, well after formation of Carlin-type deposits and
much farther to the west. Likewise, in Yukon, the Tintina fault
represents the farthest east of the major strike-slip faults, and
reconstruction of numerous piercing points on either side of
the fault suggests as much as 430 km of Eocene displacement
(Gabrielse et al., 2006). The relationship between right-lateral shear and formation of Carlin-type deposits of the Selwyn Basin is not known but most or all shearing occurs to the
west of the Selwyn Basin along the Tintina, Denali and other
major faults (some of which continues to the present day, e.g.,
Denali) but without formation of Carlin-type deposits.
Nature of the Ores
Carlin-type orebodies in Nevada are well understood in
terms of controls on their location and shapes. These deposits come in various sizes and shapes, but are fundamentally
controlled by permeability characteristics of the host rocks.
Permeability features that typically contribute to orebody
geometry include faults of various types and styles; fold structures (Fig. 4); lithologic features such as reactive beds, debris
flows, and facies changes; and features associated with rheology contrasts such as breccia zones along zones of flexural
slip and contacts between dissimilar rock types (e.g., intrusive
contacts). Of particular importance are combinations of such
features. Aquitard features are typically clay-altered rocks
(typically igneous dikes and sills) or thrust faults that place

Fig. 4. (A) Anticlinal structure in the Post-Betze pit, Carlin trend, Nevada, 2001. (B) Anticlinal structure at Osiris, Yukon,
2011 (photo courtesy of Joan Carne). In both cases, hydrothermal fluids have been focused into these structures, resulting
in gold mineralization.

394

AREHART ET AL.

less-permeable rocks over favorable strata, thereby focusing


fluid flow. Fluid flow in Carlin-type deposits is characterized
as passive and opportunistic (Muntean et al., 2011) in that
there is little evidence for over-pressured hydrothermal fluids,
complicated multistage veins, or significant synmineralization
slip on faults.
Deposits and prospects in Yukon Territory show controls
similar to those in Nevada. However, the degree of exposure
and understanding of Yukon occurrences is less than those of
the Nevada deposits.
Hydrothermal alteration
Three major styles of hydrothermal alteration are recognized in Carlin-type deposits: decarbonatization, silicification,
and argillization (e.g., Arehart, 1996; Cline et al., 2005). As
with mineralization, hydrothermal alteration is controlled by
porosity/permeability characteristics of the rocks, and may be
structurally or stratigraphically controlled (or both) (Fig. 5).
Decarbonatization is the most widespread style of alteration
and ranges from incipient decarbonatization (observable only
in thin section) to essentially complete removal of the carbonate component of the rock and subsequent collapse of the
rock (hydrothermal karst and brecciation) (Fig. 6). The best
grades of ore are typically found in moderately to strongly
decarbonatized rocks. Although not as well-documented,
decarbonatization is also present in gold-mineralized rocks of
the Rackla belt in Yukon (Fig. 6C).
Silicification (including jasperoid formation) is also common in Carlin-type deposits and is usually found closer to
the major fluid conduits than decarbonatization. Silicification
typically accompanies decarbonatization through coupled
reactions in which carbonate is removed and replaced by
fine-grained quartz. Typical silicification textures are shown in
Figure 7. Intense silicification at the outcrop scale (jasperoid)
has long been recognized as an exploration tool in Nevada;
however, there are significant jasperoids that are not related
to Carlin-type deposits. Silicification is present in Carlin-type
deposits and prospects in Yukon Territory (Fig. 7B); however,
to date, no significant jasperoids have been reported. Thus,

the silicification appears to be less intense and/or less extensive in the deposits of the Rackla belt or at Brewery Creek.
The third type of alteration reported in Carlin-type deposits is argillization. Argillization occurs only in rocks that have

C
Fig. 5. Schematic hydrothermal alteration patterns in Carlin-type deposits. Ore is typically associated with rocks that have been decarbonatized to
varying degrees. Late-stage minerals include real = realgar, bar = barite, stib
= stibnite, qtz = quartz, cal = calcite, py = pyrite. From Arehart (1996).

Fig. 6. (A) Hand specimen of decarbonatized rock showing removal of significant carbonate. Ribs of secondary silica are all that holds the rock together.
(B) Composite underground photo of hydrothermal karst breccia at Getchell,
Nevada, showing collapse features. Gold grades for select hand specimens
shown in ounces/ton (opt). (C) Intensely decarbonatized carbonate in core
(top half of the photo) from the Conrad prospect in the Rackla belt, Yukon.

A COMPARISON OF CARLIN-TYPE DEPOSITS IN NEVADA AND YUKON

395

C D

Fig. 7. (A) Partially silicified carbonate (brown) from Gold Point, Battle Mountain-Eureka trend, Nevada, with remnants
of unreplaced limestone (gray patches). (B) Intensely silicified carbonate from the Anubis zone, Rackla belt, Yukon. (C) Thin
section (crossed polars) of jasperoid from the Carlin trend, Nevada, showing jigsaw quartz texture typical of jasperoidal quartz.
(D) Thin section (crossed polars) showing textures from Conrad, Rackla belt. Qtz = quartz, re = realgar, il = illite, cc = calcite
(high birefringence); fl = fluorite (nearly black). Note the jigsaw texture in quartz similar to C. From Tucker et al. (2012).

a significant silicate mineral component (typically feldspars;


Fig. 8). This restricts argillization to igneous rocks and sedimentary rocks with a clastic component. Argillization typically
postdates the other types of alteration, and is only obvious
in the ore zones. In the Nevada deposits, argillization comprises sericite, kaolinite, and dickite; sericite is more distal

Fig. 8. (A) Intensely argillized rock from Getchell, Nevada. Most of the
white material is kaolinite. Cut core, 5 cm vertical field of view. (B) Silicified
and argillized carbonate rock from Carlin, Nevada. Coin is 2 cm in diameter.

and kaolinite/dickite more proximal in general. Smectite is


a common distal clay present in silicic dikes. Clay species
and distribution in Yukon rocks are poorly known, although
it is recognized in the few igneous rocks in or near mineralization at Rackla, as well as occasionally within sedimentary rock units. In contrast, swarms of intermediate sills and

396

AREHART ET AL.

lesser dikes at Brewery Creek are the major ore host and are
strongly altered to a quartz-illite-pyrite assemblage. Similarly,
the Brick-Neve prospect near Macmillan Pass is associated
with a swarm of plagioclase-phyric dacite dikes that have been
intensely bleached and sericitized (Aupperle, 1985; Hulstein,
1989).
In summary, Carlin-type deposits in both locations show
similar alteration types and patterns. Decarbonatization is of
variable intensity but is the most widespread alteration type.
The intense decarbonatization observed within many Nevada
Carlin-type deposits has only recently been reported from
Yukon rocks; this may be because they are weaker systems

or the central ore zones have yet to be delineated. Silicification and jasperoid formation are common in Nevada deposits,
whereas the Yukon deposits have silicified rocks but no large
jasperoids have yet been reported. Clay alteration is only obvious in the ore zones in Carlin-type deposits in Nevada; clay
alteration is present in Yukon rocks but more work is needed
to assess its distribution and mineralogy.
Paragenesis and mineralogy
Carlin-type deposits in Nevada have a relatively simple
mineralogy. Although the paragenesis may be complex, the
primary ore mineral is arsenian pyrite (Fig. 9), which is an

Fig. 9. Photomicrographs of arsenian rims on pyrite. (A) SEM-BSE image (left) of pyrite from Post-Betze (Carlin trend)
showing arsenian overgrowths along with As (center) and Au (right) SIMS maps of the same grain. On the BSE image,
numbers in rectangles represent ppm Au from SIMS spot analyses, and numbers in circles represent S isotope values from
SHRIMP analyses. Approximate locations of analytical spots are shown with black circles (solid = S analysis, dashed = Au
analysis). From Arehart et al. (1993). (B) SEM images (left) of pyrite grains (bright) from the Conrad zone showing overgrowth arsenian pyrite grains along with As microprobe map (right) of the same grains. From Tucker et al. (2012).

A COMPARISON OF CARLIN-TYPE DEPOSITS IN NEVADA AND YUKON

early hydrothermal mineral that carries the bulk of the gold


(e.g., Arehart et al., 1993). Arsenopyrite and marcasite are
common associated sulfides in ore zones. Early-stage iron
sulfides are followed by later-stage quartz, pyrite-marcasite,
barite, realgar/orpiment, and calcite, with significant stibnite,
cinnabar, and fluorite, and galkhaite in some deposits (Fig.
10). Most of these late-stage minerals were precipitated in
voids or crosscutting fractures as the hydrothermal systems
collapsed and cooled.
The deposits in Yukon have a similar mineralogy, with orpiment, realgar, fluorite, stibnite, quartz, barite, and calcite all
reported in varying amounts. Arsenian pyrite is also reported
and is presumably the location for gold (Tucker et al., 2013;
Fig. 9B), although that is yet to be confirmed. No native gold
has been reported, nor are there placer deposits associated
with the Carlin-type deposits in Yukon, similar to the Great
Basin examples. Detailed paragenetic work is yet to be done,
but the field relations suggest similar minerals and paragenesis as is observed in the Nevada deposits.
Temperatures inferred for Carlin-type deposits in the Great
Basin range from ~175 to 250C (Cline et al., 2005). Preliminary fluid inclusion data from the Conrad and Osiris deposits
(Arehart, unpub. data) yield temperatures of ~200C, thus are
consistent with temperatures inferred for Carlin-type deposits in the Great Basin. Salinities for Carlin-type deposits in
Nevada are generally low (Cline et al., 2005), and similar low
salinity is observed in preliminary data from the Rackla belt
deposits (Arehart, unpub. data).
Trace metal geochemistry
The metal geochemistry of Carlin-type deposits is dominated by a gold-only signature with relatively low Ag and
base metals. Au/Ag is typically high at 1:1 or greater. In both
areas, gold mineralization is associated with pathfinder elements Ag, As, Hg, Tl, and to a lesser extent Sb and Ba. Arsenic
and Tl have the strongest correlation with Au. Zoning patterns are typically more erratic at the deposit scale, and much
clearer at the regional scale (Fig. 11).
Of interest is the presence of elevated Ba as a pathfinder
element. Significant Paleozoic barite deposits are present
in both regions (Fig. 1). Nevada has long been a significant

397

barite producer, and Carlin-type deposits are clearly associated at a regional scale with this barite province (Arehart and
Muntean, 2002). Similarly, the Selwyn basin of Yukon Territory contains many significant barite deposits that are regionally associated with the Carlin-type deposits there. Whether
this association has genetic and exploration significance is yet
to be determined, though surely it must have something to
do with the commonality of geologic history at both locations.
In summary, Carlin-type deposits in both locations share
common reported mineralogy and trace metal geochemistry
though with some minor variations. Temperatures of deposition appear similar (from limited data). Gold is clearly present
in arsenian pyrite in Carlin-type deposits in Nevada; arsenian
pyrite is present in the Yukon deposits and is the probable
host for Au there (Fig. 9). Although there are abundant isotopic data from the Great Basin, the new deposits in the Rackla
belt have not yet been subject of these types of studies, so no
comparisons can be drawn.
Carlin-type genetic models
Discussion of the tectonic and magmatic setting of Carlintype deposits in Yukon and Great Basin leads to the question
of models for the origin of Carlin-type deposits. Models have
ranged from magmatic-hydrothermal models, in which gold
is derived from magmas, to amagmatic models, in which gold
is derived from leaching of crustal rocks. Sillitoe and Bonham
(1990) first proposed that Carlin-type deposits were distal
products of porphyry systems associated with epizonal plutons. Johnston and Ressel (2004) described this model in further detail, and it has recently been expanded by Ressel and
Henry (2006) and Muntean et al. (2011) to include release of
fluids from deep-seated magmas. It is important to emphasize
that the age of major Carlin-type deposits in the Great Basin
coincides tightly with Eocene magmatism from 40 to 35 Ma,
and that Eocene dikes are widely distributed and significantly
altered and mineralized in the Carlin trend, Cortez, and Jerritt Canyon, all major Carlin-type gold districts.
Amagmatic models have been proposed which range from
large meteoric water convection cells (Ilchik and Barton,
1997) to lateral secretion from gold-enriched host rocks
(Emsbo et al., 2003) to deep metamorphic fluids (Seedorff,

Fig. 10. (A) Realgar in calcite vein, Osiris prospect, Rackla belt, Yukon. Photo courtesy of Joan Carne. (B) Realgar veins
cutting orpiment-replaced rock, Carlin, Nevada. Sample is 10 cm across.

398

AREHART ET AL.

Au

0
5
10
15
0
50000
100000
150000
0
50
100
150
0
20

As

Tl

Hg

40

Sb

50
100
150

Fig. 11. (A) Trace element map of As in rock samples from the Jerritt Canyon district, Nevada, showing correlation
between As and gold deposits. Heavy black outlines are footprints of Carlin-type deposits in the district. From Patterson
and Muntean (2011). (B) Downhole rock geochemical data for Au, As (note the log scale for As), Sb, Tl, and Hg in drill hole
12-108 at Osiris, Yukon, showing the correlation between gold and other indicator elements.

1991; Hofstra and Cline, 2000; Cline et al., 2005). These models do not require a magmatic contribution to the gold endowment, rather, in these models gold is derived from circulation
of fluids through crustal rocks.
Carlin-type deposits in Yukon Territory are in the very initial
stages of exploration and understanding. Newly discovered
deposits in the Rackla belt do not have the same clear association with plutons as is seen in Nevada, nor do we know the age
of the deposits. In Nevada, understanding the age of the
deposits is critical to understanding their origin; there is a key
temporal and spatial relationship between Carlin-type deposits and magmatism. In Yukon, there have been several stages
of magmatism, the most persistent in the Selwyn Basin related
to an intense pulse of Cretaceous magmatism occurring
between 98 and 90 Ma, including the 93 to 90 Ma Tombstone
plutonic suite. The Tombstone suite clearly has generated

gold-depositing hydrothermal systems in the Tintina gold


belt, some of which have been suggested to be Carlin-type
deposits (e.g., Brewery Creek; Poulsen, 1996; Lindsay, 2006).
However, the cluster of Carlin-type deposits in the Rackla
belt is not spatially associated with any known magmatic rocks,
the closest exposed intrusion being ~70 km south of the
known mineralization. Tombstone and other Cretaceous
intrusive rocks formed in a post-accretionary setting, possibly
analogous to that of Eocene Nevada. Present evidence (see
Colpron et al., this volume) suggests that mineralization in the
Rackla belt is post-deformation in age and is tentatively considered to be latest Cretaceous to Tertiary in age. Preliminary
apatite fission-track work (Arehart, unpub. data) is consistent
with this interpretation, but not definitive as of this writing.
In summary, the key elements of the tectonic setting that
have led to the formation of Carlin-type deposits include the

A COMPARISON OF CARLIN-TYPE DEPOSITS IN NEVADA AND YUKON

following: (1) the rifted continental margin of western North


America. This includes the formation and continued movement through geological history on high-angle crustal faults, as
well as development of a long-lived (Proterozoic through middle Paleozoic) passive margin characterized by thick accumulations of clastic rocks and chert in a basinal setting that grades
continent-ward into a thick carbonate platform; (2) subsequent
compressional tectonics. In both locations, there is movement
on regional thrust faults that placed less-permeable caprocks
over the host carbonates. In addition, structural culminations
that could focus fluid flow were formed over high-angle,
crustal-scale faults; (3) discrete pulses of post-accretionary,
calc-alkaline magmatism that resulted in intrusion-related gold
deposits in both areas and which, in the case of the Great Basin,
is regionally associated in time and space to most or all Carlintype deposits, including the largest deposits and districts; and
(4) transition to an extensional environment. In the Great
Basin, this resulted from the initial collapse of over-thickened,
thermally weakened crust in the early Tertiary, which produced
deep-tapping faults and allowed ingress of slab-related magmas to provide heat and/or metals. Alternative models suggest
that this extensional environment allowed circulation of
crustal fluids up from depth without a magmatic component.
Conclusions
There are many similarities between Carlin-type deposits in Nevada and Yukon, and a few differences (Table 1).
Both regions share a similar tectonic history from Precambrian through early Tertiary. This history includes rifting of
the Rodinian continent to form a passive margin on which
were deposited similar clastic to carbonate platform rocks
including sedex barite locally. This was followed by multiple
compressional tectonic episodes, including thrusting and
subduction-related magmatism. Structures (folds and faults)
were an important fluid control in both locations; ore fluids
used structures that were established during the >700 m.y.
history prior to ore fluid ingress. The character of hydrothermal alteration is very similar in both locations, although
the extent of alteration in the Yukon deposits appears more

399

confined possibly because of the greater amounts of postmineralization unroofing in deposits discovered to date. Both
locations have similar mineralogy, including arsenian pyrite
(known gold host in Nevada, probable host in Yukon), quartz,
calcite, realgar-orpiment, barite, and fluorite. Trace element
suites are broadly similar with As and Tl being the strongest
indicators at regional and district scale, and Hg, Sb, Ag, and
possibly others being less robust as indicators.
The major difference between the Great Basin and Yukon
Territory deposits is the age of magmatism potentially associated with Carlin-type deposits and other, more proximal
intrusion-related gold deposits and the lack of recognition
of incipient extension related to magmatism. There are no
known Tertiary igneous rocks in the vicinity of the Yukon
deposits. If these rocks are necessary for the genesis of Carlin-type deposits (e.g., Muntean et al., 2011 among others),
then either no younger igneous rocks are exposed in Yukon
Territory, or the Yukon deposits were formed associated with
older igneous rocks as drivers/fluid sources (i.e., Tombstone
plutons). Even so, there are very few exposed igneous rocks in
the Rackla belt, although the deposits at Brewery Creek are
clearly associated spatially with intrusions of the Tombstone
plutonic suite (Poulson, 1997; Lindsay, 2006). Alternatively, if
one calls upon an amagmatic model for the genesis of Carlintype deposits (e.g., Ilchik and Barton, 1997), then perhaps the
Yukon deposits are indeed very similar to the Nevada deposits.
Transtensional environments in the Tertiary are documented
for sections of the Tintina fault (Till et al., 2007) through most
of the Tertiary and it is not unreasonable to surmise similar (at
least local) extensional environments in the Rackla belt that
would facilitate (unexposed?) intrusions and/or fluid flow.
In summary, there are many architectural similarities
between the two regions. The processes and geochemistry
appear to be very similar. However, the presence of extension
and ore-related magmatism in Nevada appears to be a component that is missing (or at least much less robust?) in the
Yukon Territory. Whether these are critical to the formation
of a large deposit is dependent upon ones choice of a geologic
model for the origin of Carlin-type deposits.

Table 1. Comparison of Characteristics of Carlin-type Deposits in Nevada and Yukon


Nevada

Yukon

Tectonic history
Passive margin sedimentation (early Pz); compressional

tectonismthrusting and magmatism (mid-Pz to early T);

extension and magmatism (early T-present)

Passive margin sedimentation (early Pz); back-arc (?)


extension (late Pz to K); compressional thrusting and
magmatism (K); transcurrent tectonism with possibly
local extension (T)

Alteration-decarbonatization

Yes, variable intensity but generally weaker than in


Nevada (thus far)

Yes, variable intensity and distribution but generally


corresponds to ore

Alteration-silicification
Jasperoid common but not all is ore related

Silicification common but no large-scale jasperoids


reported to date

Alteration-argillization

Present, locally intense, only found in ore zones

Present but needs more work to assess patterns

Ore mineralogy

Arsenian pyrite-marcasite

Arsenian pyrite presumed to host gold

Associated minerals

Common realgar-orpiment-calcite + fluorite and other


trace minerals in open-space fillings

Common realgar-orpiment-calcite, reported fluorite in


open space; no other trace minerals reported to date

Fluid inclusions

Relatively low salinity, 175250C

Limited data indicate low salinity, ~200C

Trace metal geochemistry

Associated As, Sb, Tl, Hg, (Ag), (Se), (Ba); high Au/Ag

Associated As, Tl, Hg, (Ag), (Sb); high Au/Ag

400

AREHART ET AL.

Acknowledgments
The ideas and comparisons in this paper have benefited
from an entire generation of geologists, both in Nevada and
Yukon. Without their work, our understanding of the geology
and of these deposits would be much diminished. The paper
itself benefited greatly from reviews by Steve Kesler and
Howard Poulsen, and discussions with Mo Colpron. However,
the authors take responsibility for any errors of omission and
commission in this paper.
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