Sources of metals in the Porgera gold deposit, Papua New Guinea: Evidence from alteration, isotope, and noble metal geochemistry

Jeremy P. Richards*, Malcolm T. McCulloch, Bruce W. Chappell, Robert Kerrich

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    57 Citations (Scopus)


    The Porgera gold deposit is spatially and temporally associated with the Late Miocene, mafic, alkalic, epizonal Porgera Intrusive Complex (PIC), located in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The highlands region marks the site of a Tertiary age continent-island-arc collision zone, located on the northeastern edge of the Australasian craton. The PIC was emplaced within continental crust near the Lagaip Fault Zone, which represents an Oligocene suture between the craton and volcano-sedimentary rocks of the Sepik terrane. Magmatism at Porgera probably occurred in response to the Late Miocene elimination of an oceanic microplate, and subsequent Early Pliocene collision between the craton margin and an arc system located on the Bismarck Sea plate. Gold mineralization occurred within 1 Ma of the time of magmatism. Metasomatism accompanying early disseminated Au mineralization in igneous host rocks resulted in additions of K, Rb, Mn, S, and CO2, and depletions of Fe, Mg, Ca, Na, Ba, and Sr; rare-earth and high-field-strength elements remained largely immobile. Pervasive development of illite-K-feldspar-quartz-carbonate alteration assemblages suggests alteration by mildly acidic, 200 to 350°C fluids, at high water/ rock ratios. Strontium and lead isotopic compositions of minerals from early base-metal sulphide veins associated with K-metasomatism, and later quartz-roscoelite veins carrying abundant free gold and tellurides, are remarkably uniform (e.g., 87Sr 86Sr = 0.70745 ± 0.00044 [n = 10], 207Pb 204Pb = 15.603 ± 0.004 [n = 15]). These compositions fall between those of unaltered igneous and sedimentary host rocks, and specifically sedimentary rocks from the Jurassic Om Formation which underlies the deposit (igneous rocks: 87Sr 86Sr ≈ 0.7035, 207Pb 204Pb ≈ 15.560; Om Formation: 87Sr 86Sr |t~ 0.7153, 207Pb 204Pb ≈ 15.636). It is therefore suggested that the hydrothermal fluids acquired their Sr and Pb isotopic signatures by interaction with, or direct derivation from, a plutonic root of the PIC and host sedimentary rocks of the Om Formation. It is likely that Au was also derived from one or both of these two sources. Concentrations of Au in unaltered igneous and sedimentary rocks from Porgera (≤10 ppb Au) do not indicate that either lithology represents a significantly enriched protore, although Au and platinum-group element (PGE) abundances in the igneous rocks suggest a mild primary magmatic enrichment of Au relative to the PGE (average [Au/(Pt + Pd)]mantle normalized = 14.0 ± 6.5 [n = 8]). Evidence that the Porgera magmas were rich in volatiles permits speculation that Au may have been concentrated in a magmatic fluid phase, but alternative possibilities such as derivation of Au by hydrothermal leaching of solidified igneous materials or sedimentary rocks cannot be excluded at this time.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)565-580
    Number of pages16
    JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1991


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