Crustal evolution, intra-cratonic architecture and the metallogeny of an Archaean craton
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The generation of the Earth's continental crust modified the composition of the mantle and provided a stable, buoyant reservoir capable of capturing mantle material and ultimately preserving ore deposits. Within the continental crust, lithospheric architecture and associated cratonic margins are a first-order control on camp-scale mineralization. Here we show that the evolving crustal architecture of the Archaean Yilgarn Craton, Western Australia, played a key role in controlling the localization of camp-scale gold, iron and nickel mineralized systems. The age and source characteristics of Archaean lithosphere are heterogeneous in both space and time and are recorded by the varying Nd isotopic signature of crustal rocks. Spatial and temporal variations in isotopic character document the evolution of an intra-cratonic architecture through time, and in doing so map transient lithospheric discontinuities where gold, nickel and iron mineral systems were concentrated. Komatiite-hosted nickel deposits cluster into camps localized within young, juvenile crust at the isotopic margin with older lithosphere; orogenic gold systems are typically localized along major structures within juvenile crust; and banded iron formation (BIF)- hosted iron deposits are localized at the edge of, and within, older lithospheric blocks. Furthermore, this work shows that crustal evolution plays an important role in the development and localization of favourable sources of nickel, gold and iron by controlling the occurrence of thick BIFs, ultramafic lavas and fertile (juvenile) crust, respectively. Fundamentally, this study demonstrates that the lithospheric architecture of a craton can be effectively imaged by isotopic techniques and used to identify regions prospective for camp-scale mineralization.
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