- Economic Geology
Tarmoola is a structurally controlled Archean orogenic gold deposit hosted in greenschist facies metamorphosed komatiite and trondhjemite in the Leonora district of the Eastern Goldfields province, Yilgarn craton. High-grade (>1 g/t Au) orebodies are located in komatiite wall rock adjacent to the eastern and northeastern margins of the asymmetrical, north-south–striking, Tarmoola trondhjemite intrusion. Gold-bearing veins postdate trondhjemite emplacement (ca. 2700 Ma), quartz diorite dikes (ca. 2667 Ma), and regional greenschist facies metamorphism.
Textures and crosscutting relationships in gold-bearing veins indicate two stages of hydrothermal fluid infiltration associated with a single gold-related hydrothermal event: a volumetrically dominant, but gold-poor, stage I fluid and a gold-rich stage II fluid. Gold-bearing veins contain stage I milky quartz and pyrite that are overprinted by stage II quartz-ankerite-muscovite-chalcopyrite-sphalerite-galena-gold-tellurides ± albite ± chlorite ± fuchsite ± epidote ± scheelite. Stage I hydrothermal alteration assemblages are different in trondhjemite and komatiite due to contrasting reactions between a common ore fluid and disparate wall-rock chemistry. Stage II fluid-wall rock interaction was minor compared to stage I and is indicated by the overprinting of stage I mineral assemblages by stage II microveins. Wall-rock alteration proximal to veins in trondhjemite is characterized by replacement of igneous plagioclase, amphibole, biotite, and metamorphic chlorite by hydrothermal quartz, muscovite, ankerite, calcite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite, galena, tellurides, and gold, whereas in proximal alteration in komatiite, metamorphic chlorite and talc are replaced by ankerite, quartz, muscovite, albite, chlorite, fuchsite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite, galena, tellurides, and gold. The stage II fluid was enriched in H2O, CO2, Si, Ca, K, Na, S, Au, Ag, Cu, Pb, W, Bi, As, Mo, Zn, and Te.
Based on fluid inclusion studies and stage II mineral equilibria, gold deposited from a homogeneous, neutral to slightly alkaline (pH 5.1–5.5), reduced, low-salinity (<5.5 wt % NaCl equiv) fluid that had a bulk composition of 78 mole percent H2O and 21 mole percent CO2, and trace amounts of CH4, C2H6, H2, Ar, H2S, and He. Gold deposition occurred at 300° ± 50°C and 0.5 to 3.0 kbars. Assuming lithostatic fluid pressures, gold precipitated at a 2- to 10-km depth. Stage II gray quartz δ18Ofluid values range from 5.9 to 7.5 per mil, whereas δDfluid values calculated from the dehydration of muscovite grains and measured directly from bulk fluid inclusion analyses of stage II gray quartz have ranges of –9 to –35 and –27 to –28 per mil, respectively.
Hydrothermal ore fluids were transported from greater crustal depths to the site of gold deposition during the district-scale D3 event by shallowly W dipping, reverse brittle-ductile shear zones in supracrustal rock and along the steeply east dipping trondhjemite contact. Associated subhorizontal east-west shortening caused the reactivation of the eastern trondhjemite margin and subparallel foliation, which facilitated the transport of hydrothermal fluids and the generation of gold-bearing veins and hydrothermal alteration zones in komatiite. East-west–striking fractures in trondhjemite aided the lateral migration of ore fluids away from trondhjemite margins and the formation of east-west–striking gold-bearing veins and broad alteration zones. Gold was most likely transported in the stage II fluid as bisulfide complexes. The sulfidation of trondhjemite and komatiite wall rock by the stage II fluid caused the destabilization of Au bisulfide complexes and gold deposition. Potassium, Ca, and CO2 metasomatism of komatiite wall rock may have enhanced gold deposition via the acidification of the stage II fluid.
The physicochemical characteristics of the Tarmoola ore fluid and relative timing of gold mineralization are consistent with the Yilgarn-wide, 2650 to 2630 Ma gold event. The host-rock chemistry, vein, and proximal wall-rock alteration mineral assemblages, and fluid temperature and pressures during gold deposition are also similar to that of earlier (ca. 2755 Ma) gold deposits in the Leonora district.