Gold mineralisation is widespread and occurs in most geological provinces of South Australia
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- Gold is the most malleable and ductile of all the metals, and one of the softest and heaviest
- It is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity
- It is resistant to attack by air, heat, moisture and most solvents
- Gold dissolves in aqueous mixtures containing halogens (such as chloride, bromide and iodide) as well as some oxidising mixtures such as alkaline cyanide solution and aqua regia (a mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids)
- Native gold generally contains impurities such as silver (Ag), copper (Cu) and iron (Fe) with traces of bismuth (Bi), lead (Pb), zinc (Zn), antimony (Sb), tellurium (Te), mercury (Hg), tin (Sn) and platinum (Pt)
- The purity or fineness of gold is expressed in parts per 1000 and can range from about 500 (50% impurity) to 900 (10% impurity) for vein gold, and from ~500 to 999 in alluvial gold
- Gold can be alloyed with various metals to give unique properties such as red gold (Cu), green gold (Cu and Ag) and white gold (Ni, Zn or Pt metal). The most common naturally occurring alloy is electrum, which is pale yellow and contains >20% Ag. The gold content (by weight) of an alloy is described in carats; pure gold (24 carat) is used in the Australian Nugget coins; 18 carat gold is 18/24 pure gold; 6/24 is an alloy metal
- Because of its rarity, durability, colour and chemical inertness, gold has been used throughout history for the payment of goods and services and is now the basis for international monetary exchange
- The high density of gold allows large quantities to be stored in a small space; 1 t occupies only 0.05 m3
Gold in South Australia
The first recorded production of gold in South Australia was in 1846 from the Victoria Mine, 18 km northeast of Adelaide. The history of subsequent discoveries is characterised by short periods of high production which had a significant effect on population movements during the development years of the state.
Gold mineralisation is widespread and found in most geological provinces of the state as primary and/or secondary deposits.
Primary deposits are of two types:
- Auriferous quartz veins, known as reefs or lodes, which are typically localised along faults, shears, joints or bedding planes. The gold generally occurs in the native state associated with sulfide minerals, particularly pyrite (FeS2), but also pyrrhotite (Fe1–xS), chalcopyrite (CuFeS2), arsenopyrite (FeAsS), sphalerite (ZnS) and galena (PbS)
- Base metal deposits from which gold is obtained as a by-product.
Secondary deposits are derived by physical erosion or solution in groundwater from primary deposits and redeposited near the source as eluvial deposits in overlying soil and colluvium or further from the source as alluvial placer deposits. These deposits are often collectively termed ‘alluvial’ even though the gold is not necessarily transported by alluvial processes. Many near-surface nuggets form by precipitation from groundwater; bacterial action may play an important role in this process.
As recently as 15 years ago, Archaean gold systems were an unknown concept in South Australia. Now these systems within the Gawler Craton are demonstrated by a newly recognised gold deposit style with mined and contained resources surpassing one million ounces.
The metavolcan-sedimentary complexes that host these systems also contain the potential for significant greenfield gold resources.
Archaen rocks of the Gawler Craton are contained within the Mulgathing and Sleaford Complexes. These complexes contain a diverse stratigraphy that includes mafic to ultramafic volcanics including komatiites, felsic volcanics, clastic and chemical sediments, including BIFs, carbonates and chert.
Sedimentation and volcanism within these complexes occurred over the interval ~2570–2510Ma, with ages for the intrusives clustering at ~2520 Ma.
Challenger gold deposit
The most significant gold resource in the Gawler Craton is the greater than 1 million oz Challenger Gold Deposit, 900 km NW of Adelaide.
The Challenger Mine was discovered by Dominion Mining Ltd and Resolute Ltd (Gawler Joint Venture) as the result of a regional calcrete sampling program in 1995. The first gold bar was produced in October 2002 and the mine was officially opened in December 2002.
Mineralisation occurs as three pipelike ore shoots about 30m in diameter that plunge about 30o north – northeasterly with associated narrow, sub-vertical high grade veins. Mineralisation has been intersected over a down plunge distance of 800m.
The lode systems are contained within a feldspar-quartz-cordierite-garnet-biotite gneiss, inferred to be part of the Archaean metasedimentary Christie Gneiss. High grade coarse gold mineralisation occurs within and adjacent to coarse grained quartz-feldspar-garnet-biotite veins with minor disseminations of arsenopyrite, loellingite, and pyrrhotite. Traces of bismuth minerals, tellurides, chalcopyrite, pentlandite and sphalerite are also present.
Features of the Challenger deposit include:
- Migmatised gold system
- Granulite facies metamorphism concentrated gold and enhanced the grade
- Hosted by quartz-dominated veins occur within ore hosting leucosomes
- Mineralisation is structurally controlled
- Possibly originally an epithermal gold system.
Other significant exploration prospects in the area include Golf Bore with an inferred resource of 726 195 t @ 3.29 g/t Au, Campfire Bore, South Hilga, Typhoon, Monsoon, Mainwood and Birthday.
Olympic Dam deposit
The Olympic Dam copper, uranium gold and silver deposit is one of the world’s largest known accumulations of metals.
Western Mining Corporation discovered the deposit in 1975. Underground mining commenced in 1988 and a major expansion program from 1997 to 1999 lifted the annual production capacity.
The deposit is situated within the Mesoproterozoic Hiltaba Suite Roxby Downs Granite (1588 Ma) beneath ~300 m of undeformed Adelaidean and Cambrian platform sediments of the Stuart Shelf. Mineralisation is hosted by a large, broadly zoned hydrothermal hematite granite breccia complex which comprises a barren core of hematite–quartz breccia flanked by 1–2 km wide mineralised zones of hematite-rich breccias intermingled with altered granitic breccia.
Ore mineralisation mainly comprises disseminated and fragmental chalcocite, bornite, chalcopyrite, pitchblende and finely disseminated free gold, with sulfide veinlets developed locally.
Other Cu–Au prospects include Acropolis, Wirrda Well, Dromedary Dam, Horse Well, Oak Dam East, Emmie Bluff, Manxman and Joes Dam.
Prominent Hill mine
The Prominent Hill prospect was discovered in November 2001 by Minotaur Resources Ltd. The discovery hole, URN 1, was drilled to test a discrete gravity anomaly located on the southern margin of the Mt. Woods Inlier. Drill results included 20.2m at 3.03g/t from 107m, 107m at 0.65g/t Au and 1.94% g/t Cu from 200m and 152m at 0.61 g/t Au and 1.10% Cu from 492m.
Mineralisation is Olympic Dam style with chalcocite, bornite, chalcopyrite and gold disseminated within the matrix of a massive hematite supported breccia that appears to strike west-northwest, parallel to sub-parallel to a magnetic feature. Anomalous rare earth and uranium values are also associated. A high-grade gold zone occurs ‘as a skin’ adjacent to the northern margin of the steely hematite-silica core which is the source of the discrete gravity anomaly.
In April 2002, the results of drill hole DP005, sited some 200m east of the discovery hole were announced. Below 136m of sedimentary cover assay results include: 21m @ 3.04% Cu, 1.02 g/t Au, 5.3 ppm Ag, 201 ppm U and 0.78% REE from 207m; 209m @ 1.54% Cu, 0.93 g/t Au, 2.4 ppm Ag, 196 ppm U and 0.56% REE from 308m including 20m @ 2.83% Cu, 1.3 g/t Au, 3.9 ppm Ag, 249 ppm U and 0.79% REE from 430m.
Other deposits in the Gawler Craton
The Tarcoola Goldfield was discovered in 1893 when alluvial gold was found by a station hand. Mining of reef deposits began in 1900 and the goldfield grew to become the State’s major reef gold producer. Between 1900 and 1955, gold bullion totalling 2400 kg was recovered from 64 000 t of ore at an average grade of 37.5 g/t. Since 1955 there has been a small intermittent production. The major producing mines were the Tarcoola Blocks, Tarcoola Perseverance, Welcome Home andCurdnatta.
Gold production was mainly from auriferous quartz veins that cross Palaeoproterozoic Tarcoola Formation carbonaceous siltstone and interbedded quartzite. Gold was also mined from the adjacent Hiltaba Suite granite (1575 Ma) which is generally considered to be the source of mineralisation.
Exploration by BHP and later by Grenfell Resources within the goldfield has established a measured resource of 620 000 t containing 3.0 g/t Au from the Perseverance prospect, and total indicated and inferred resource of 220 000 t at 1.6 g/t Au for the Last Resource prospect.
Other prospects include Soyuz, Boomerang and Warburton.
The Glenloth Goldfield was found with the discovery of alluvial gold in 1893, but was not established until 1901 when auriferous reefs were located. Between 1901 and 1955, ~315 kg of gold were produced from 14 620 t of ore at an average grade of 21.6 g/t. Since 1955, gold production has been small and sporadic. Fabian’s No.3, Royal Tiger, Glenmarkie and The Jay-Jay Mines were the largest producers.
The mineralised quartz veins, up to 1 m wide, are hosted by sheared and fractured Archaean to Palaeoproterozoic Glenloth Granite and are sometimes associated with Palaeoproterozoic dolerite dykes. A shallow Hiltaba Suite batholith has been proposed as the source of mineralisation.
The Earea Dam Goldfield was discovered in 1899 and produced 59.2 kg of gold from 1869.6 t of ore (average grade 35.3 g/t) during 1899–1903 and 1933–41. Production was predominantly from the Wilgena Enterprise and Perseverance Mines.
The Moonta and Wallaroo copper deposits have produced a combined total of 9.6 Mt of ore from which 350 000 t of copper (grade 3.7%) and ~3.6 t of gold (grade 0.4g/t) were recovered, mainly from underground mining, between 1860 and 1923. From 1988 to 1993, the Poona and Wheal Hughes lodes of the Moonta system were mined by open-cut and underground decline to produce ~17 500 t of copper (grade 3.7%) and 423 kg of gold (grade 0.9 g/t) from 476 000 t of ore.
The Moonta lode system comprises a series of steeply dipping pegmatitic veins hosted by Paleoproterozoic rhyolitic Moonta Porphyry (1737 Ma) of probable volcanic origin. Primary mineralisation comprises chalcopyrite, pyrite and bornite in a quartz, feldspar, tourmaline, chlorite and haematite gangue. A secondary sulfide (chalcocite, covellite) enrichment zone caps the loads beneath a near-surface barren zone.
The Wallaroo deposit is hosted by Doora Schist which includes mica schist, amphibolitic schist, quartzite, gneiss and iron formation. Mineralisation is distributed along near-vertical shear zones as chalcopyrite, pyrite and pyrrhotite in a quartz, biotite, feldspar and tourmaline gangue.
Other exploration prospects
- Barns gold prospect where Adelaide Resources NL has defined an extensive gold-in-calcrete anomaly, with ~100m wide north-northeast trending zones of primary mineralisation beneath a 10-20m thick oxide zone. Host rock is brecciated and hydrothermally altered Hiltaba Suite Granite with alteration assemblages ranging from quartz-feldspar-chlorite-epidote to quartz-sericite-pyrite. Drill intercepts include 8m @ 3 g/t Au from 35m in the oxide zone and 7m @ 1.8 g/t Au from 69m in the primary zone. Adelaide Resources NL is also exploring Buckleboo-1 Au-Cu prospect, some 70 km east of Barnes, where an extensive calcrete geochemical anomaly extends for about 8 km.
- Tunkillia prospect where calcrete sampling and drilling have revealed high-grade gold mineralisation hosted by altered Hiltaba Suite granite within demagnetised zones of the Yarlbrinda Shear Zone. Target areas include Tomahawk, Area 191 and Area 223.
- Nuckulla Hill prospect where calcrete sampling and drilling have revealed significant gold mineralisation within demagnetised zones of the Yarlbrinda Shear Zone. Target areas include Sheoak, Myall and Bimba.
- Weednanna prospect where significant gold mineralisation has been intersected within Paleoproterozoic Hutchison Group banded iron formation.
- Barnes prospect where significant gold mineralisation has been intersected in fractured and hydrothermally altered Hiltaba Suite granite.
- Malbooma (Muckanippie) Gold Mine was opened in 1909 on a 0.5–1.5 m wide auriferous quartz reef which averaged 7–8 g/t Au, hosted by Proterozoic Muckanippie Diorite. There is no recorded production and intermittent mining ceased ~1925 with the workings up to 15 m deep.
- Lake Labyrinth Goldfield was opened in 1912 and worked intermittently until 1940. Approximately 5.3 kg of gold were produced from 150 t of auriferous quartz vein ore hosted by Archean Mulgathing Complex gneiss.
The ranges comprise Paleoproterozoic inliers, which are a probable extensions to the Gawler Craton, surrounded by sediments of the Adelaide Geosyncline.
The Algebuckina Goldfield opened ~1870 when gold was discovered in alluvial gravel of the Neales River, and activity continued to ~1898. Total production from the field was ~4.7 kg.
Gold occurrences are widespread, and generally associated with copper, but production has been minor. The New Luxemburg Goldfield was the major producer with ~15.5 kg of gold between 1887 and 1916, predominantly from the Luxemburg and Queen Bee mines. Mineralisation was in quartz–sulfide veins crossing Mesoproterozoic granite adjacent to an amphibolite body.
The Paleoproterozoic ‘Bimba formation’ and calc-albite units of the Willyama Supergroup host several Cu–Au mines and exploration prospects including Dome Rock, Waukaloo, Woman-in-White, White Dam and Kalkaroo.
Other Cu–Au deposits include Walter–Outalpa, Walparuta and Pimponda Mines.
At Benagerie Ridge, significant gold and copper mineralisation has been intersected by the Pasminco Australia Ltd – Werrie Gold Ltd joint venture, generally with a gravity trough signature. High-grade supergene gold zones are developed at the surface of deeply weathered upper Willyama Supergroup basement. Primary vein mineralisation is stratabound within an albitic metasedimentary sequence. Prospects include Portia, North Portia, Shylock, South Nerissa, Lorenzo, Antonio, Arragon,Solanio and Jessica.
Gold deposits are spread throughout the Adelaide Geosyncline but generally confined to specific stratigraphic horizons. Historically, most of the state’s largest reef and alluvial fields are within the geosyncline, but the last major gold discovery was the Mongolata Goldfield in 1930 and regular gold production ceased ~1950. The geosyncline accounted for ~70% of the state’s total gold production prior to commencement of the Olympic Dam Mine in 1988.
Mount Lofty Ranges
The Echunga Goldfield had two main producers:
- The Old Echunga Diggings produced ~3100 kg of gold, mainly between 1852 and 1855, from Tertiary and Quaternary fluvial sediments. Minor production came from quartz veins in the underlying Adelaidean Aldgate Sandstone and Woolshed Flat Shale.
- The Jupiter Creek Diggings produced ~930 kg of gold, mainly between 1868 and 1871, from shallow Tertiary and Quaternary sediments along modern drainage channels. Production also came from quartz veins within Adelaidean Aldgate Sandstone.
The Barossa Goldfield was discovered in 1868 and produced an estimated 3110 kg of gold until activity ceased in the 1930s. Most production was alluvial gold from the base of Tertiary fluvial sediments and modern drainage channels. Small amounts of reef gold were also produced between 1894 and 1900 from quartz and hematite veins within underlying Paleoproterozoic Barossa Complex schist and gneiss which forms a basement inlier within younger Adelaidean rocks.
The Deloraine Goldfield, located by an alluvial gold discovery in 1909, was worked to ~1940 on quartz veins within Burra Group clastic and carbonate metasediments. Total production was ~1.1 t of gold from ore averaging ~20 g/t. Mines included Deloraine, Deloraine Queen, Deloraine King, Deloraine Blocks and Prairie Deloraine.
The Woodside Goldfield has a recorded production of ~933 kg from 1881 to 1938. Gold occurred in quartz–sulphide reefs within Umberatana Group quartzite and schist over a distance of ~3 km. Sulphide minerals included pyrite, arsenopyrite, galena and chalcopyrite. The major mines were Bird-in-Hand, New Era and Eureka. The goldfield was found by the discovery of alluvial gold which continued to be a minor producer in the area.
Workings at the Birdwood Goldfield extend over an area of ~7 x 5 km. Gold was first discovered in alluvial diggings in 1869, and the total recorded production is 622 kg. Production, which ceased in the 1930s, came mainly from quartz reefs but the large alluvial diggings also yielded large amounts. Workings extended across Adelaidean Burra Group and Cambrian Kanmantoo Group metasediments. The main producing mines were the Hynes Reef, Lucky Hit, Argosy and Black Snake.
Other significant goldfields in the Mount Lofty Ranges include Para Wirra (Lady Alice Mine) and the alluvial goldfields of Forest Range, Uraidla, Angaston, Gumeracha, Willunga, Gomersal, Moppa and Lobethal.
Waukaringa Goldfield produced ~1427 kg of gold from 58 000 t of ore (average grade 24.5 g/t) between 1873 and 1969. The underground workings extend to depths of 260 m. Gold occurs in quartz–ironstone–pyrite veins, broadly concordant to, and hosted by, Umberatana Group Cox Sandstone Member quartzite. The main mines include Alma and Victoria, Alma Extended, West Waukaringa and Balaklava. Ajax, 13 km southwest of the main group of workings, produced ~69 kg of gold, averaging 16 g/t, between 1887 and 1938.
Teetulpa Goldfield, South Australia's most productive goldfield, produced ~3132 kg of alluvial gold, mainly between 1886 and 1889. Further mining took place in 1909–13 and 1934, and sporadic alluvial mining and fossicking continues to the present. Alluvial gold was mainly found at the base of poorly sorted fluvial sediments within paleochannels overlying Adelaidean Tapley Hill Formation shale and siltstone that host minor auriferous quartz–carbonate–sulfide veins. The main gold producing areas were Brady’s Gully, Goslin’s Gully and Strawbridge Gully.
Wadnaminga and Taltabooka Goldfields are situated in Burra Group dolomite, siltstone and phyllite of the Belair Subgroup and underlying Saddleworth Formation. Auriferous quartz veins occur over a large area and in a variety of stratigraphic positions north of the 463 Ma Anabama Granite.
Wadnaminga Goldfield produced ~743 kg of gold from 20 000 t of ore (average grade 37.6 g/t), mainly between 1888 and 1940. Major mines include New Milo, Virginia, Thunder Queen, Great Eastern, Victoria Tower, Oulnina Tower and Countess of Jersey. Some minor alluvial gold was produced.
Taltabooka Goldfield produced ~11 kg of gold at an average grade of 22.3 g/t between 1889 and 1938. The largest mine was the Esmonde.
Gold at Mongolata Goldfield occurs in a stockwork of quartz and ironstone veins within Umberatana Group Cox Sandstone Member quartzite and in underlying Tapley Hill Formation slate. Mongolata produced ~342 kg of gold at an average grade of 44 g/t from underground workings between 1930 and 1954. The major mines include Byles, Takati, Curlew and Baldina. Some minor alluvial gold was produced from the Mongolata and Scammel alluvials.
At Mannahill Goldfield, mineralisation occurs in a series of conformable quartz–sulfide veins in Umberatana Group Enorama Shale. Ore comprises finely banded quartz, siderite and minor barite. Mannahill produced ~107 kg of gold at an average grade of 18 g/t from underground workings between 1885 and 1947. The major mines were the Westward Ho andHomeward Bound.
At Nillinghoo Goldfield, mineralisation occurs within quartz–limonite–pyrite–hematite veins, 150 to 300 mm wide, hosted by feldspathic quartzite of the Umberatana Group Wilyerpa Formation. Since discovery in 1894, ~187 kg of gold have been produced at an average grade of 31 g/t, mainly from the Kirkeeks Treasure Mine which comprises a 15 m deep open cut and shafts to 63 m.
Ulooloo Goldfield was discovered in 1869 and produced ~162 kg of alluvial gold from cemented Tertiary alluvium and recent alluvials, mainly from Noltenius Creek and Coglins Creek.
Mount Grainger Goldfield was discovered in 1891 and produced ~57 kg of gold at an average grade of 13 g/t, mainly from quartz–ironstone stockwork veins within the basal arenaceous unit of the Umberatana Group Appila Tillite. The largest mine was Mount Grainger.
The Blue Rose copper-gold prospect, located 2-3 km north of the Anabama Granite, is hosted by Burra Group dolomitic and calcic metasediments. ‘Skarn-type’ mineralisation has been recognised comprising disseminated sulphides including chalcopyrite with biotite, serpentinite, tremolite, talc and chlorite. Drilling in 2002 by Giralia Resources located copper and gold mineralisation on four 100m spaced drill sections with a best intercept of 48m @ 0.82% Cu and 1.01 ppm Au.
Other significant occurrences in the Nackara Arc include the Pitcairn Range, Dustholes, Eukaby Hill, Kings Bluff and Mintaro Goldfields; the Copperlinka, Boomerang–Coo-ee, Golden Dewdrop, Royal Charlie, Orama Hill and Welsh Prince Mines; andJohnsons Gully, Oodlawirra, Lovely Gully and Mittopitta alluvial goldfields.
Alluvial gold was discovered at Angepena Goldfield in 1892 in shallow alluvium within several gullies and adjacent hillsides, particularly Golden Gully and Windlass Hill. By 1894 the alluvials had been worked out and mining commenced on auriferous quartz–ironstone reefs hosted by Adelaidean Tapley Hill Formation. Sporadic reef mining continued until the early 1970s, with the Xmas Mine being the major producer. Total production from the goldfield was ~31 kg, derived mainly from the alluvial workings.
Alluvial gold was discovered at Boolooroo Goldfield in 1888 and worked intermittently until ~1937. Total production was ~16 kg from the upper part of a gypsiferous clay and in pockets to 2.5 m depth.
Other gold occurrences include Mount Ogilvie Mines, Worturpa Mine, Lively’s Find and Yudnamutana.
The Kanmantoo Mine operated between 1970 and 1976 producing 36 000 t of copper (average grade 0.89%), and ~260 kg of gold (average grade 0.07 g/t) as a by-product. Mineralisation comprised several lenses of chalcopyrite, pyrrhotite, magnetite and minor gold and silver, hosted by Tapanappa Formation garnet–andalusite schist of the Cambrian Kanmantoo Group.
The Kitticoola Mine opened in 1846, and closed in 1971 after five phases of mining. During this time 162.6 kg of gold at an average grade of 5.4 g/t were produced, along with 7000 t of copper at an average grade of 2.25%. The deposit comprised nine lodes, averaging 1.5 m in width; the largest was mined to a depth of 128 m. The mineralised quartz veins occur as shear or fault infillings within the Ordovician Palmer Granite (479 Ma) which intrudes Cambrian Kanmantoo Group metasediments.
At the Palmer Goldfield, a gold-bearing reef was found in 1854 and sporadic mining occurred until 1938. Auriferous quartz veins are hosted by the Palmer Granite; some gold was won from alluvial diggings. Total production for the field is ~1.6 kg.
Other gold mines in the Kanmantoo Trough include Lady Jane, Grundy, Kohinoor, Cygnet and Rainbows End. Other alluvial goldfields include Cooalinga Creek, Callawonga Creek, Bullaparatta Diggings and Daws Diggings.
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