|Summary / Abstract
||Epithermal Ag-Au deposits form at low to moderate temperatures in near-surface environments. Historically, these deposits have been the source of high-grade ores. Increases in the market prices for gold and silver make lower-grade ores economically viable when available in large tonnages. Both the high-grade and bulk-tonnage ores are a consequence of the same processes, and general models of epithermal systems can be useful in the search for new precious-metal resources.
A detailed study of deposits at Round Mountain, Nevada; Balei, Russia; Creede, Colorado; Guanajuato, Mexico; and Chanarcillo, Chile, indicates that the hydrodynamics of the fluid systems as determined by fracture geometries, the permeability, and composition of the host rocks are the key factors in the creation of both high-grade and bulk-tonnage epithermal deposits.
End-member models that explain the range of observed deposit characteristics are: (1) the hot-springs deposition model; (2) the stacked-cell convection model (where mineral deposition occurs laterally along the interface of two partially separated fluid reservoirs); and, (3) the closed-cell convection model (where deposition occurs in vertical zones due to the relatively unimpeded vertical flow of hydrothermal fluids). Boiling and fluid mixing appear to be agents of precious-metal deposition with the self-sealing of the hydrothermal system being an important adjunct to boiling.
Imaginative application of model concepts in exploration has led and can lead to the discovery of new high-grade and/or bulk-tonnage precious-metal deposits.