A combined noble gas and halogen study of orogenic gold mineralisation in the Alpine and Otago Schists, New Zealand

  • Nicholas Goodwin

Student thesis: Phd


Quartz and pyrite samples from Pliocene-recent, sub-economic orogenic gold mineralisation in the Southern Alps and Mesozoic economic deposits in the Otago Schist Belt have been analysed for noble gases and halogens. Palaeo-hydrothermal fluids preserved in fluid inclusions were released by crushing and analysed by mass spectrometry. Helium isotope measurements confirm the absence of a mantle-derived fluid component in gold-bearing veins from the Southern Alps and at the large gold deposit at Macraes in Otago. A possible minor mantle helium component is observed in veins within 10km of the Alpine Fault that do not contain gold. Halogen ratios support the absence of mantle-derived fluid and support the presence of a crustal fluid derived from sediments, indicated by high I/Cl ratios. Mixing trends between 40Ar/36Ar and Cl/36Ar indicate mixing between a meteoric-derived fluid or air and crust-derived fluid in all sample types. A correlation between 40Ar/36Ar and 132Xe/36Ar shows that xenon is also sourced from the crustal fluid. Despite a strong crustal-radiogenic Ar signal in some samples, measured neon isotope ratios are atmosphere like. Noble gas elemental ratios show strongly fractionated 20Ne/36Ar away from air-saturated water and air values in deeper formed veins, suggesting air contamination is not dominant. Evidence for the presence of a significant trapped vapour phase is provided by calculated noble gas concentrations in water. Formation of this vapour phase using a two-stage model of de-gassing of meteoric water, and subsequent partial re-dissolution by a Rayleigh fractionation process could account for fractionated 20Ne/36Ar and atmospheric neon isotope ratios. In the Southern Alps, three main types of mineralisation can be identified by noble gas and halogen properties. Deep forming veins contain the most gold and are characterised by 20Ne/36Ar greater than air, 132Xe/36Ar ratios up to 75 times the air value, indicating metamorphic and meteoric fluid components. Some deep ankeritic type veins that display evidence of a CO2-rich component fluid show the highest 20Ne/36Ar ratios. Shallow, late veins have 20Ne/36Ar between air-saturated water and air values, and lower xenon and iodine contents. These veins formed from a boiling rock-exchanged meteoric fluid with a minor metamorphic fluid component and contain less gold. The characteristics of the Nenthorn deposit in Otago are similar to those of the shallow Alpine veins. The economically significant Macraes deposit possibly formed from a meteoric component and a strong metamorphic fluid component derived from the original sediments. This is indicated by the highest levels of excess xenon (relative to air) determined in this study. There is some potential for xenon to be used to fingerprint gold bearing fluids sourced from similar metasedimentary piles in orogenic belts.
Date of Award31 Dec 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester


  • Alpine Schist
  • Otago Schist
  • Halogens
  • Metamorphic fluid
  • Orogenic gold
  • Noble gases

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