The timing of gold mineralization across the eastern Yilgarn craton using U–Pb geochronology of hydrothermal phosphate minerals
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The highly mineralized Eastern Goldfields of the eastern Yilgarn craton is an amalgamation of dominantly Neoarchaean granitoid-greenstone terranes and domains that record a history of early rifting, followed by westward directed collision with initial arc formation, collision and clastic basin formation, and final accretion to the western Yilgarn proto-craton between 2.66 and 2.60 billion years ago. The gold deposits that define this region as a world-class gold province are the product of orogenic processes that operated during accretion late in the tectonic history, after initial compressional deformation (D1–D2) and the majority of granitoid magmatism. Minor gold was also deposited throughout the entire tectonic history in magmatic-hydrothermal-related systems. However, such mineralization (mostly < 0.3 g/t gold) is nowhere economic unless it overprints, or is overprinted by, much higher-grade orogenic gold lodes.Robust SHRIMP U–Pb geochronology of gold-related hydrothermal xenotime and monazite supports structural studies that gold mineralization occurred during late transpressional events (D3–D4), shortly before cratonization. However, westward migration of collision and accretion produced a complementary diachroneity in the timing of gold mineralization of 5 to 20 m.y. between c. 2.65 Ma in the east (including Laverton District, Kurnalpi Terrane) to c. 2.63 Ma in the west (including Kalgoorlie Terrane) across the eastern part of the craton. The robust geochronology refutes previous suggestions that significant gold mineralization events extended from DE to D4 in the evolution of the orogen and that the Kalgoorlie gold deposits formed over a period of 45 m.y. The crustal continuum model is applicable within terranes where orogenic gold depositional events were penecontemporaneous, but must be modified to account for diachroneity of orogenic events and gold mineralization across the Eastern Goldfields.
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