Evidence for rapid epithermal mineralization and coeval bimodal volcanism, Bruner Au-Ag property, NV USA
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The character of Au-Ag mineralization and volcanic/hydrothermal relationships at the underexplored Miocene-age Bruner low-sulfidation epithermal Au-Ag deposit are elucidated using field and laboratory studies. Bruner is located in central Nevada within the Great Basin extensional province, near several major volcanic trends (Western Andesite, Northern Nevada Rift) associated with world-class Miocene-age epithermal Au-Ag provinces. Despite its proximity to several >1 Moz Au deposits, and newly discovered high-grade drill intercepts (to 117 ppm Au/1.5m), there is no published research on the deposit, the style of mineralization has not been systematically characterized, and vectors to mineralization remain elusive. By investigating the nature of mineralization and time-space relationships between volcanic/hydrothermal activity, the deposit has been integrated into a regional framework, and exploration targeting improved.Mineralization occurs within narrow quartz + adularia ± pyrite veins that manifest as sheeted/stockwork zones, vein swarms, and rare 0.3-2 m wide veins hosted by two generations of Miocene high-K, high-silica rhyolite flow dome complexes overlying an andesite flow unit. The most prominent structural controls on veining are Nstriking faults and syn-mineral basalt/rhyolite dikes. Productive veins have robust boiling indicators (high adularia content, bladed quartz after calcite, recrystallized colloform quartz bands), lack rhythmic banding, and contain only 1-2 stages; these veins overprint, or occur separately from another population of barren to weakly mineralized rhythmically banded quartz-only veins. Ore minerals consist of coarse Au0.5Ag0.5 electrum, fine Au0.7Ag0.3 electrum, acanthite, uytenbogaardtite (Ag3AuS2) and minor embolite Ag(Br,Cl). Now deeply oxidized, veins typically contain <1% pyrite/goethite + Au-Ag minerals, with trace marcasite and microscopic Fe-poor sphalerite.Property-scale K-feldspar alteration related to a pre-ore hydrothermal system is overprinted by Au-Ag stage alteration consisting of proximal quartz + Fe-sericite + pyrite ± adularia and distal illite-montmorillonite-chlorite (after biotite). The distribution of steam-heated alteration zones and vitrophyre units, along with prominent chemical and textural zonation of veins, suggest that a 400 m vertical section of the epithermal system is now exposed at surface.40Ar/39Ar geochronology of 3 adularia and 4 volcanic samples identified a rhyolite unit that slightly predates ~16.34 Ma Au-Ag mineralization and mafic magmatism. The proposed timeline for deposit formation is: 21-20 Ma, eruption of locally derived rhyolitic flows; 16.62 Ma, development of new rhyolite flow-dome complex and meteoric-dominated geothermal circulation along N-S structural fabric driven by heat from rhyolite domes; ~16.34 Ma, emplacement of NW trending basalt dikes, followed by violent hydrothermal eruptions, eruption of tuffisite breccia dikes, and Au-Ag mineralization; <16.34 Ma, post-mineral rhyolitic volcanism and normal faulting; and <16 Ma to present, continued faulting and dismemberment of the mineral system.The close spatial and temporal association of veining with coeval volcanic units suggests that Au-Ag-S traveled along similar structure and may have been supplied from the same magma chamber. Deposition of Au and Ag from HS- complexes by boiling appears to have occurred rapidly following closely spaced violent magmatic/hydrothermal eruption events. On a deposit scale, a complex interplay of depth, proximity to dikes, and structural dilatency during Au-Ag stage fluid pulses controlled localization of economic mineralization, which can be highly variable over meter-scale distances. Bruner appears to belong to a small subset of mid-Miocene epithermal deposits in Nevada with low base metal contents and low to no Se, related to calc- alkaline rhyolite flow-dome complexes. Multiple lines of evidence document decoupled sourcing of Al-Si-K-O from Au-Ag-S, and suggest that mafic magmatic inputs to an active, but barren geothermal system were important in forming the Bruner low-sulfidation epithermal ore deposit.