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Department of Earth Sciences, Laurentian University, Volume PhD, p.370 (2016)


Banded iron formation, Precambrian, Algoma, geochemistry, gold, chert, deposition, seawater, hydrothermal footprint


Algoma-type banded iron formations (BIFs), which represent chemical sedimentary rocks characterized by alternating layers of iron-rich minerals and chert intercalated with Eoarchean to late Paleoproterozoic volcano-sedimentary sequences, act as a favorable host rock for orogenic gold mineralization within several Archean cratons (i.e., Pilbara, Kaapvaal, Superior, Slave and Churchill). Besides this economic aspect, these Fe-rich sequences have long been appreciated as an important contributor to furthering our understanding of the geochemical evolution of the Earth. However, these deposits are in general tectonically deformed, metamorphosed and dismembered, thus making reconstruction of their depositional setting and overall geologic setting difficult.<br/>Based on four Canadian BIF-hosted gold deposits (the Meadowbank, Meliadine, Musselwhite and Beardmore-Geraldton deposits), this thesis aims to establish the depositional setting of the Algoma-type BIF using the abundance of REE+Y of chert material used as proxy of the primary signature, as well as assess gold enrichment processes based on textures and trace element zoning of variable sulfides (i.e., pyrite, arsenopyrite and pyrrhotite) and finally study if there is a particular geochemical type of Algoma-type BIF associated with gold mineralization.<br/>Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometric (LA-ICP-MS) analyses performed on chert material suggest that BIFs from the four deposits show common depositional settings illustrated by deposition in semi-closed to closed basin under variable influence of high-temperature (>250ºC) hydrothermal fluids input and detrital contamination. Moreover, evidence of late diagenetic processes involving O isotopic exchange between chert precursor (i.e., opaline material) and seawater origined fluid have been documented. According to their primary signature, it appears that barren versus mineralized BIFs do not show any geochemical divergence suggesting that the depositional setting may influence the epigenetic gold mineralization. Based on quantitative element distribution maps combined with line traverse and spot analyses by LA-ICP-MS on sulfides, a common gold mineralizing event characterized by intense stratabound sulfide-replacement of Fe-rich material was reported in three studied deposits exhibiting a Au-As-Se-Te-Ag element association. This result suggests that metamorphic/hydrothermal orogenic processes driven by devolatilization of a common weakly to unmetamorphosed source rock have ledto generation of gold-bearing fluid which channelled into Algoma-type BIF via major crustal faults and/or shear zones within low tensile strength rocks.