USGS-Publications B2155 - Chronology of Late Cretaceous Igneous and Hydrothermal Events at the Golden Sunlight Gold-Silver Breccia Pipe, Southwestern Montana

By Ed DeWitt, Eugene E. Foord, Robert E. Zartman,
Robert C. Pearson, and Fess Foster

Gold mineralization at the Golden Sunlight breccia pipe, southwestern Montana, is related to emplacement of Late Cretaceous alkali-calcic rhyolite and subsequent collapse of the Belt Supergroup wallrock and rhyolite in the pipe. The pipe is inferred to grade downward into an alkalic porphyry molybdenum system. The pipe is cut by alkalic to sub-alkalic lamprophyre dikes and sills, which locally contain high-grade gold where emplaced along late shear zones and vein systems.
Determination of the emplacement age of the rhyolite is hampered by inherited lead or inherited Late Archean zircon from the source region of the rhyolite. An emplacement age of about 80 Ma for the rhyolite can be inferred if a basement age of 2,600 Ma is assumed. This Late Archean age is in agreement with basement ages determined in many parts of southwestern Montana.

A206Pb-238U whole-rock date of 84±18 Ma from altered and mineralized Belt Supergroup strata and rhyolite in the breccia pipe indicates hydrothermal alteration related to gold mineralization in Late Cretaceous time. Although sericite is a relatively widespread hydrothermal mineral, attempts to date the very fine grained material by the 40Ar-39Ar method did not provide a spectra that could be interpreted unambiguously.
A 40Ar-39Ar plateau date of 76.9±0.5 Ma from biotite phenocrysts in the lamprophyre indciates intrusion of mafic magma and attendant CO2 metasomatism in the Late Cretaceous. Fission-track data from zircon in the rhyolite are permissive of slow uplift of the Belt Supergroup strata, rhyolite, and lamprophyre between 55 and 50 Ma, but the data are not definitive.



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 Rhyolitic welded tuff in the informally named units 7, 9, and 11 of the Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics is most similar in chemistry and age to the rhyolite at the Golden Sunlight mine. Trachybasalt in the Adel Mountains Volcanics and andesitic basalt in the informally named unit 8 of the Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics are the most analogous in chemistry and age to lamprophyres at the mine. The rhyolitic rocks appear to be derived from deep crustal sources, but data for the lamprophyres and mafic rocks in the Elkhorn Mountains Volcanics indicate that they were derived from the mantle.

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For more information about this report contact: Ed DeWitt
Last updated 15 Dec 2005