Gold fineness in hydrothermal ores : an investigation into the distribution of gold and silver in Southern Rhodesian gold ores

by Hugh V. Eales

Institution: Rhodes University
Department: Faculty of Science, Geology
Degree: PhD
Year: 1961
Keywords: Hydrothermal deposits  – Zimbabwe; Gold ores  – Zimbabwe; Silver ores  – Zimbabwe; Silver mines and mining  – Zimbabwe
Record ID: 1530384
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10962/d1014887


This investigation is concerned with primary variations in the silver content of gold which occurs in hydrothermal deposits, particularly those of hypothermal character which are found in Basement rocks in Southern Rhodesia. The nature of the gold produced by a number of different mines has been studied by reference to production data, and microscope techniques as well as gold and silver assays have been used to determine and to explain the variations in gold fineness. The literature does not contain a great deal of information which is relevant to this topic, but an attempt has been made here to summarize the more important contributions by different writers. From this it emerges that the interpretations given by different investigators are in conflict and that paradoxes may arise when efforts are made to explain observed variations in fineness in terms of certain generalizations which have become entrenched in the literaure. In particular, it is shown that falling temperature alone cannot account for the occurrence of silver-rich gold in certain deposits. The Gwanda district of Southern Rhodesia has been selected as a typical gold belt, and the variation in fineness in 150 producers is described. The deposits are hypothermal in character, and the average fineness of the gold is high but variable, but in a small proportion the fineness is low. It is shown that the nature of the host rock and the distance of a deposit from the granite contact appear to have no influence on the fineness of the gold and that there is no zonal arrangement of fineness values. There is a suggestion that diversity of mineral species in any particular area may be accompanied by rather wide fluctuations in the gold fineness. The variations of fineness in eight typical Southern Rhodesian deposits are studied in detail, by analysis of production data, by assaying specimens of the ore and by the examination of polished specimens of gold-bearing ore. Briefer reference is made to two other deposits in the territory, and to deposits in other countries which appear to bear out the conclusions reached in this section. It emerges that there are two factors which can commonly be correlated with variations in fineness. The first of these is the grade of the ore: high-grade ore generally contains purer gold than low-grade ore. Secondly, the textural evidence indicates that gold which separates relatively early in the paragenesis contains more silver than that which is deposited in the final stages of metallization. A general survey which draws on the literature as well as on the writer's examinations of deposits in the territory indicates that, in general, gold which is associated with late-stage minerals such as tellurides, antimony, bismuth and bismuthinite is silver-poor. Gold associated with galena may be either silver-rich or silver-poor, whereas gold which is of the same age as chalcopyrite or sphalerite is very frequently rich in silver. The difficulty which is encountered in establishing the age of gold which is intimately associated with…