REDUCED INTRUSION-RELATED GOLD SYSTEMS
CRAIG J.R. HART
Yukon Geological Survey, Box 2703 (K-10), Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada Y1A 2C6
Centre for Exploration Targeting (M006), The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA, Australia,
Corresponding author’s email: email@example.com
Reduced intrusion-related gold systems (RIRGS) are characterized by widespread arrays of sheeted auriferous quartz
veins that preferentially form in the brittle carapace at the top of small plutons, where they form bulk-tonnage, low-grade
Au deposits characterized by a Au-Bi-Te-W metal assemblage, such as the Fort Knox and Dublin Gulch deposits. RIRGS
also include a wide range of intrusion-related mineral deposit styles (skarns, replacements, veins) that form within the re-
gion of hydrothermal inﬂ uence surrounding the causative pluton, and are characterized by proximal Au-W-As and distal
Ag-Pb-Zn metal associations, thereby generating a zoned mineral system. Plutons that generate RIRGS form in tectonic
settings characterized by weak post-collisional extension behind a thickened continental margin. Such settings are also
conducive to the formation of W deposits, and thereby generate a regional Au-W metallogenic association, but individ-
ual plutons can generate both W and Au deposits. Associated magmas are diverse and have characteristics of I-, S-, and
A-type granitoids. The most proliﬁ c Au systems comprise metaluminous, moderately reduced, moderately fractionated,
biotite>>hornblende>pyroxene quartz monzonites that have mixed with volatile-rich lamprophyric melts. The magmas
have a reduced primary oxidation state that form ilmenite-series plutons. This reduced state causes associated sulphide
assemblages to be characterized by pyrrhotite, and quartz veins that host methane-rich inclusions. RIRGS mostly form
at a depth of 5 to 7 km and generate mineralizing ﬂ uids that are low salinity, aqueous carbonic in composition and are,
therefore, unlike typical porphyry Cu deposits. The RIRGS class was developed on well-studied examples in Yukon and
Alaska. Other suggested Canadian examples are in southeastern British Columbia and New Brunswick; numerous global
examples have been suggested, but many are controversial.
Les systèmes aurifères associés à des intrusions réduites (SAAIR) sont caractérisés par des réseaux étendus de ﬁ lons
de quartz aurifère dans des zones feuilletées, qui se forment de manière préférentielle dans la carapace à déformation
fragile développée au sommet de petits plutons. Ces systèmes ﬁ loniens aurifères forment des gîtes d’or à faible teneur
caractérisés par une association métallique à Au-Bi-Te-W comme les gisements de Fort Knox et de Dublin Gulch. Les
SAAIR englobent également une gamme étendue de styles de minéralisations associés à des intrusions (skarns, gîtes de
remplacement, gîtes ﬁ loniens) qui se forment dans la zone d’inﬂ uence hydrothermale entourant le pluton auquel ils doi-
vent leur formation et qui sont caractérisés par des associations métalliques de nature proximale à Au-W-As et de nature
distale à Ag-Pb-Zn , produisant ainsi des systèmes à zonalité minérale. Les plutons engendrant des SAAIR se forment
dans des cadres tectoniques caractérisés par une faible extension consécutive à une collision à l’arrière d’une marge
continentale épaissie. De tels cadres sont également favorables à la formation de gîtes de tungstène, engendrant ainsi une
association métallogénique régionale à Au-W, mais des plutons individuels peuvent produire des gîtes de W et des gîtes
de Au. Les magmas associés sont divers et présentent des caractéristiques des granitoïdes des types I, S, et A. Les systè-
mes aurifères les plus proliﬁ ques renferment des monzonites quartziques à biotite>>hornblende>pyroxène modérément
réduites, modérément fractionnées et de caractère métalumineux, qui se sont mélangées à des bains lamprophyriques
riches en matières volatiles. Les magmas présentent un état d’oxydation initial réduit qui produit des plutons de la série de
l’ilménite. Cet état réduit fait en sorte que les paragenèses sulfurées associées sont caractérisées par la pyrrhotine et que
des ﬁ lons de quartz renferment des inclusions riches en méthane. Les SAAIR se forment principalement à des profon-
deurs de 5 à 7 km et engendrent des ﬂ uides minéralisateurs aquo-carboniques de faible salinité, qui sont ainsi différents
de ceux qui caractérisent les gîtes porphyriques de cuivre. La classe des SAAIR a été élaborée d’après des exemples bien
étudiés au Yukon et en Alaska; d’autres exemples sont proposés au Canada dans le sud-est de la Colombie-Britannique et
au Nouveau-Brunswick alors que de nombreux exemples ont été proposés ailleurs dans le monde, mais plusieurs d’entre
eux restent controversés.
Reduced intrusion-related Au systems (RIRGS) include a
wide range of Au-only mineral deposit styles that are consid-
ered to have had a direct genetic link with a cooling felsic in-
trusion during their formation. Associated deposit styles may
be as varied as skarns, veins, disseminations, stockworks, re-
placements, and breccias (Hart et al., 2000a) and, therefore,
deﬁ ne ores that are broader in classiﬁ cation than simply a
deposit and were thus identiﬁ ed as a system (Lang et al.,
2000). The most diagnostic deposit style within the RIRGS
classiﬁ cation is intrusion-hosted, sheeted arrays of thin, low-
sulphide quartz veins with a Au-Bi-Te-W signature, which
typically comprise bulk tonnage, low-grade Au resources.
The host or associated intrusions characteristically have
moderately low primary oxidation states, making them re-
duced, ilmenite-series (Ishihara, 1981) granitoids. The best
Hart, C.J.R., 2007, Reduced intrusion-related gold systems, in Goodfellow, W.D., ed., Mineral deposits of Canada: A Synthesis of Major Deposit Types, Dis-
trict Metallogeny, the Evolution of Geological Provinces, and Exploration Methods: Geological Association of Canada, Mineral Deposits Division, Special
Publication No. 5, p. 95-112.
occur at Dublin Gulch (Hitchins and Orssich, 1995; Maloof
et al., 2001), Scheelite Dome (Mair et al., 2000, 2006a) and
Clear Creek (Marsh et al., 2003), where they form the core of
the Tombstone Gold Belt in the central Yukon. All of these
Tombstone Gold Belt systems are hosted mainly in, and
directly formed from, reduced mid-Cretaceous (95–91 Ma)
plutons that deﬁ ne a discontinuous belt that spans 1000 km
across central Yukon and Alaska (Hart et al., 2004a).
This RIRGS model was adopted in the late 1990s to
classify many Au deposits and districts throughout interior
Alaska and Yukon, and assembled into the vast Tintina Gold
Province (TGP; Tucker and Smith, 2000). However, many
of the identiﬁ ed deposits and districts in the TGP lack Au
ores with RIRGS characteristics or are dominated by placer
Au deposits with uncertain lode sources (Hart et al., 2002).
Although the TGP contains many important RIRGS, it also
includes other types of lode Au deposits. Thus, the >800 km-
long Tombstone Gold Belt best describes the distribution of
the unequivocal RIRGS, whereas TGP describes a large geo-
graphical area with a signiﬁ cant Au endowment (Fig. 1).
Elsewhere in the Cordillera, “plutonic-related” systems
with some similar characteristics to RIRGS are associated
with Cretaceous Bayonne suite intrusions in southeastern
British Columbia (Fig. 2), where they form a 350 km-long belt
(Logan et al., 2000). Outside of the Cordillera, the best known
Canadian examples may be those in the Acadian orogeny of
southern New Brunswick (McLeod and McCutcheon, 2000),
such as Clarence Stream and Lake George, although these are
better known for their W-Sn-Mo-Sb mineralization. Potential
Archean examples in Canada have been suggested to occur
in the southern Superior Province of Ontario and Quebec
(Robert, 2001; Malartic, Fig. 2), but these deposits may be
distinct because they are unlike typical RIRGS.
Although the RIRGS classiﬁ cation is still developing,
numerous Phanerozoic global examples suggested in early
compilations, such as those of Thompson et al. (1999),
Thompson and Newberry (2000), and Lang et al. (2000),
have deﬁ ned a preliminary distribution that indicates po-
tential RIRGS in Paleozoic and Mesozoic orogenic belts,
although supporting documentation for these classiﬁ ca-
tions is mostly lacking. Suggested examples include the
Bolivian Polymetallic Belt, Yanshanian orogen of the North
China craton, Tien Shan of central Asia, New England and
Lachlan provinces in Australia, and the Bohemian Massif
and the Iberian Peninsula in Europe (Fig. 2). Speciﬁ c de-
posits include Timbarra (Mustard, 2001), Kidston (Baker and
Tullemans, 1990), and potentially other Au deposits in east-
ern Australia (Blevin, 2004); Penedona and Jales (Portugal),
Salave and Solomon (Spain), Mokrsko and Petrackova hora
(Czech Republic), Vasilkovskoe (Kazakstan), Niuxinshan
(China), Sn-rich Kori Kollo (Bolivia), and Petza River and
Miller Mountain (USA; Thompson et al., 1999; Lang and
Baker, 2001). Some Paleozoic Au giants in central Asia have
been interpreted by some workers (e.g., Cole et al., 2000;
Wall et al., 2004) to show features that resemble RIRGS (i.e.,
Jilau, Muruntau, Sukhoi Log, Kumtor), but such associations
are highly controversial and many workers argue that these
examples of RIRGS include Fort Knox (Alaska) and Dublin
These gold systems have only been recognized as a new
deposit class since 1999 and, as such, are in a juvenile state
of understanding with still rapidly evolving data collection,
interpretation, and nomenclature (see Hart, 2005 for details;
see Mair et al., 2006a as a current example). As an example
of nomenclature evolution, many of these dominantly intru-
sion-hosted systems were originally considered to be Au
porphyry deposits (Hollister, 1992; Sinclair, 2007), whereas
country rock-hosted disseminated and stockwork systems
dominantly distal to plutons were considered to be “Carlin-
like” deposits (Poulsen 1996). RIRGS are distinct from
intrusion-related Au deposits as deﬁ ned by Sillitoe (1991,
1995), because the deposits are characteristically associated
with porphyry Cu systems that are related to highly oxidized
and more maﬁ c intrusions. Therefore, within the intrusion-
related clan, two different types of Au mineralizing systems
can be identiﬁ ed using the preﬁ xes “reduced” and “oxi-
dized”. The RIRGS are a distinct class that lacks anomalous
Cu, have associated W, low sulphide volumes, and a reduced
sulphide mineral assemblage, and that are associated with
felsic, moderately reduced (ilmenite-series) plutons, where-
as oxidized intrusion-related Au deposits are mostly Au-rich
(or relatively Cu-poor) variants of the porphyry Cu deposit
model associated with more maﬁ c, oxidized, magnetite-ser-
Intrusion-hosted, sheeted-vein styles of mineralization
typically occur in all associated RIRGS plutons to some
degree, but the classiﬁ cation can include skarns, replace-
ments, disseminations, veins, and stockworks that may de-
velop within, beyond, or above the pluton’s thermal aureole.
However, except for the skarn deposit model which has long
recognized a “reduced” variant (Einaudi et al., 1981; Meinert,
1998), speciﬁ c deposit models for the other Au mineraliza-
tion styles are lacking because such styles are common to
many deposit types. Shallow-level equivalents of RIRGS
such as Brewery Creek occur locally and are termed “epi-
zonal”. Intrusion-related Au-bearing vein deposits certainly
occur, but their characteristics are so varied that establish-
ing a set of deﬁ ning characteristics to construct a model has
proven difﬁ cult (e.g., Sillitoe and Thompson 1998). This has,
in part, resulted in considerable confusion in distinguishing
intrusion-related Au and orogenic Au vein deposits (variably
discussed in Goldfarb et al., 2000, 2005; Hart et al., 2002;
Groves et al., 2003; Hart and Goldfarb, 2005). Herein, the
characteristics of RIRGS are deﬁ ned and distinguished from
other deposit types.
The RIRGS classiﬁ cation was developed in response to
exploration and Au deposit discoveries in the 1990s in Alaska
(USA) and Yukon (Canada) in the northern North American
Cordillera (Fig.1). The most signiﬁ cant economic mineral-
ization is in the Fairbanks area of central Alaska, where the
actively mined Fort Knox deposit (Bakke, 1995) serves as a
type example of a RIRGS. Signiﬁ cant but unmined systems
Reduced Intrusion-Related Gold Systems
are wide-ranging due to the variation of deposit styles within
the classiﬁ cation. The variation further broadens with the
inclusion of controversial Alaskan deposits, such as the
high-grade Pogo and large tonnage Donlin Creek orebodies.
Figure 3 shows the grade-tonnage relationships for most of
the suggested Canadian and Alaskan examples, as well as
Timbarra in Australia.
The most characteristic deposit style, intrusion-hosted
sheeted vein deposits, is best represented by mineralization
at Fort Knox and Dublin Gulch. Both deposits have minable
reserve grades of approximately 0.9 g/t Au and cutoffs of 0.4
to 0.5 g/t, but at Fort Knox, material as low as 300 ppb Au
may be stockpiled. The grades of individual veins are 5 to 50
g/t Au, but most ore blocks have an average of 3 to 5 veins per
metre within otherwise barren host rocks, thus yielding ~1
g/t ores. Gold grade is, therefore, mainly controlled by vein
density. Whereas Fort Knox and Dublin Gulch have similar
overall grades, Fort Knox’s lower-grade ores are enriched by
higher-grade and overprinting, late-stage quartz shear veins.
Sheeted vein arrays also occur at deposits such as Brewery
Creek (Classic Zone), Dolphin, Shotgun, and Gil, but are not
the main ore hosts because each deposit has other features
that control grade distribution. Tonnages in the RIRGS are
likely to range from 10 to 300 Mt, with grades likely to be
from 0.7 to 1.5 g/t Au, hosting approximately 10 to 300 t
(0.3–10 Moz) of contained Au. Fort Knox has a resource of
about 210 t (7 Moz) of contained Au.
Few of the skarn, replacement, and disseminated de-
posits within the RIRGS have deﬁ ned grades and tonnages.
The Marn and Horn skarn orebodies in Yukon indicate high
deposits are likely orogenic Au deposits (Groves et al., 2003;
Goldfarb et al., 2005).
Global Archean and Proterozoic RIRGS examples
have also been suggested, but Proterozoic examples such
as Tennant Creek and Telfer (Rowins, 2000) in northern
Australia are Cu-rich and lack most RIRGS characteristics.
Similarly, Boddington (McCuaig et al., 2001) and Tower Hill
(Witt, 2001), both of Western Australia, have been suggested
as Archean examples, but mostly lack critical RIRGS features,
and indicate the unlikelihood of formation or preservation of
good Archean examples.
The mid-Cretaceous was the most favourable time for for-
mation of RIRGS along Canada’s western margin, in adjacent
eastern Alaska, and in southeastern British Columbia. Some
southwestern Alaskan suggested examples, such as Shotgun,
are latest Cretaceous. The less well understood occur-
rences in New Brunswick are Devonian. Globally, although
there is still much controversy as to what deposits truly are
RIRGS, the Phanerozoic appears to clearly dominate, par-
ticularly the Cretaceous and the mid-Paleozoic (Devonian
to Carboniferous), which were the most favorable times for
formation of RIRGS. Proterozoic and Archean examples are
controversial and too few to assess in terms of timing, but the
lack of W deposits of these ages emphasizes the unlikelihood
of this as a signiﬁ cant era.
Grade and Tonnage
The grades and tonnages of deposits classiﬁ ed as RIRGS
FIGURE 1. Distribution of the Tintina Gold Province (TGP) across Alaska and Yukon as shown in yellow. Individual Au deposits (large circles),
notable occurrences, and those mentioned in the text (small circles) are shown. Not all Au mineralization in the TGP represents RIRGS. Gold de-
posits and occurrences considered to be RIRGS are shown in red; those that are ambiguous or controversial in origin are highlighted in black; and
those dominated by W, but associated with the same plutonic event as RIRGS, are shown in purple. The RIRGS that deﬁ ne the Tombstone Gold Belt
(shown in pink) underlie central Yukon; its western extent has been offset along the Tintina Fault and displaced to its present location, where it forms
part of the Fairbanks district. Notably, the TGP is composed of numerous different Au districts with varying deposit types and ages of mineralization,
but reduced intrusion-related Au systems are mostly limited to the Tombstone Gold Belt. F=Fairbanks, D=Dawson, M=Mayo, W=Whitehorse.
Illinois Creek Ryan Lode Fort Knox
edge of Selwyn Basin
grades (8–10 g/t Au), but small tonnages (~50 000–300 000
t). Ryan Lode in central Alaska is the best potential example
of an intrusion-related vein, with an average grade of 3 g/t
over 3.6 Mt of ore (Bakke et al., 2000) along the margin of
a small, unroofed stock. Scheelite Dome represents a huge,
although undeﬁ ned, country rock-hosted RIRGS, with skarn,
vein, disseminated, and replacement deposit styles (Hulstein
et al., 1999; Mair et al., 2000). Tungsten ores are associated
with RIRGS, most signiﬁ cantly is the Ray Gulch deposit
(7.26 Mt of 0.87% WO3), which forms in contact with the
Dublin Gulch pluton (Lennan, 1983; Brown et al., 2002).
The epizonal Brewery Creek deposit had an overall grade
of 1.44 g/t Au and 17.2 Mt of ore, divided between about
eight orebodies, prior to mining and extraction of 9 t (285
000 oz) Au from 1996 to 2002. Parts of some individual
orebodies had considerably higher average grades of 4 g/t
Au. The overall tonnage of Brewery Creek is misleading be-
cause it was explored only for its easily recoverable oxide re-
source. The underlying sulphide orebody remains undeﬁ ned,
but is the focus of current exploration efforts. The Donlin
Creek deposit, at 323 Mt of 2.7 g/t Au and with a Au-As-
Sb-Hg signature similar to that of Brewery Creek, had also
been suggested to be an epizonal RIRGS (Ebert et al., 2000;
Thompson and Newberry 2000), but recent studies (Ebert et
al., 2003; Goldfarb et al., 2004) indicate otherwise.
Tectonic Setting and Magmatic Associations
Due to the evolving understanding of this deposit class,
and the injudicious incorporation of numerous international
examples, the associated tectonic settings are poorly con-
strained, with back-arc, foreland fold belts, collisional, post-
collisional, and magmatic arc settings in orogenic belts
having all been proposed (e.g., Thompson et al., 1999;
Goldfarb et al., 2000). Examples of widely varying
global and generally poorly understood settings for major
RIRGS include the Paleo-Tethys sutures, the margins of
the North China Craton, the Tasman Orogen, the north-
ern North American Cordilleran orogen, and the Andes
(Thompson et al., 1999; Lang et al., 2000; Thompson and
Newberry 2000). However, the setting of the best-studied
examples in the Tombstone Gold Belt are well under-
stood (Fig. 4; Mair et al., 2006b). Associated RIRGS de-
posits and occurrences in Yukon are directly related to
Tintina Gold Province
Phanerozoic Proterozoic Archean
British Columbia Penedona
FIGURE 2. Global distribution of Au deposits suggested to be RIRGS. The Phanerozoic examples, for which there is a high degree of conﬁ dence, are
shown in red. Ambiguous examples are shown in black, grey, and white. Modiﬁ ed from Thompson et al. (1999), Lang et al. (2000), and Lang and
0.1 1 10 100 1000
Gil Brewery Creek
Grams per tonne Au
Millions of tonnes of ore
100 tonnes Au
1000 tonnes Au
10 tonnes Au
FIGURE 3. Grade and tonnages of deposits considered to be RIRGS,
with emphasis on the intrusion-hosted mineralization style. Other de-
posit types and controversial deposits are shown for comparison. Open
symbols are used for deposits that are controversial. BCC = Brewery
Creek Classic zone, CC = Clear Creek.
Reduced Intrusion-Related Gold Systems
speciﬁ c plutonic suites that were emplaced into tectonically
thickened Paleozoic and older miogeoclinal strata that overlie
the ancient cratonic margin. The plutons are within the dom-
inantly clastic and locally carbonaceous strata of the Selwyn
Basin (Murphy, 1997; Poulsen et al., 1997), and do not occur
within the presumably thicker crust of the adjacent carbonate
platforms (Fig. 4).
Magmatism has resulted from melts generated and em-
placed following Jurassic-Cretaceous subduction, collision,
and obduction of outboard terranes that resulted in thickening
of the ancient continental margin (Mair et al., 2006a). The
associated and resultant plutonic episode that spans 15 to 20
million years formed hundreds of plutons, stocks, dikes, and
sills that intruded strata throughout the Selwyn Basin, and
related tectonic elements in Alaska. However, those plutons
that generated and commonly host the Au mineralization (as
well as W mineralization) preferentially belong to the most
inboard and youngest of the plutonic suites that together com-
prise the Tombstone-Tungsten belt (Mortensen et al., 2000;
Hart et al., 2004a). These plutons were emplaced during a
brief (~5 m.y.) period of weak extension at circa 93 Ma that
followed foreland-directed thrusting and crustal thickening,
and were the last magmatic response of the mid-Cretaceous
Despite suggestions indicating otherwise, the plutons of
the Tombstone-Tungsten belt, those associated with RIRGS
mineralization, are neither reduced continental “arc” or I-type
(Newberry et al., 1995; McCoy et al., 1997; Thompson et al.,
1999), nor typical crustal melt-derived or S-type granitoids
(Anderson, 1983, 1988; Gordey and Anderson, 1993). They
do, however, locally have characteristics of each type. Most
have general granitic to monzonitic to granodioritic compos-
itions, are mainly metaluminous, but locally peraluminous,
and have some geochemical features similar to calc-alkaline
granites. However, many plutons or phases are highly felsic,
and have peraluminous compositions with accessory mus-
covite, tourmaline, and garnet. Other associated plutons are
alkaline, mainly potassic, locally with silica undersaturated
compositions that are variably enriched in LILEs and HFSEs
(Anderson, 1987; Hart et al., 2005) and characteristic of A-
type granitoids. The plutons with dominantly metaluminous,
peraluminous, and alkalic characteristics deﬁ ne the Mayo,
Tungsten, and Tombstone plutonic suites, respectively, and
notably, all have associated Au mineralization. The divers-
ity and contrasting features of the various lithologies and
the geochemistry of the plutons deﬁ es conventional plu-
tonic categorization. Detailed work at Scheelite Dome led
Mair (2005) to the construction of a model whereby highly
Tombstone Plutonic Suite (92 Ma)
McQuesten Plutonic suite (64 Ma)
Mayo Plutonic Suite (97-94 Ma)
Road River Group black shale, cherts
and Rabbitkettle Formation carbonate
Earn Group black shale,
and Keno Hill quartzite
Gull Lake and Earn Group shale
gold deposit, occurrence
FIGURE 4. Regional geological setting of the western Tombstone Gold Belt in west-central Yukon. The region is dominated by tectonically thickened
Selwyn Basin clastic strata; Mackenzie Platform carbonates dominate north of the Dawson Thrust. Tectonism peaked at ca 105 Ma (Mair et al.,
2006b) and was followed by the emplacement of the Mayo Plutonic Suite, then ﬁ nally by the Tombstone Plutonic Suite, during a period of weak,
crustal extension at the end of the mid-Cretaceous. This tectonic and magmatic setting, within variably calcareous and carbonaceous miogeoclinal
sedimentary rocks on the cratonic margin far inboard from the subduction-related, continental margin arc, is considered ideal for the formation of
RIRGS as well as for W deposits. Modiﬁ ed from Murphy (1997).
volatile, enriched lithosphere-derived lamprophyric melts
interact and eventually mix with ascending and fractionating
felsic melts extracted from the lower crust. The result is a
wide range of lithological and geochemical characteristics in
the associated plutons. The Mayo Plutonic Suite, which has
the strongest Au association and afﬁ nities with the RIRGS
model and includes the Fort Knox and Dublin Gulch plutons,
are metaluminous, moderately reduced, moderately fraction-
ated, biotite>>hornblende>pyroxene quartz monzonites
(Hart et al., 2005; Mair, 2005)
Therefore, the RIRGS preferentially formed in associa-
tion with the youngest, furthest inboard, moderately reduced
(ilmenite-series) plutonic suite that developed during weak
post-collisional extension behind a thickened continental
margin. All Yukon, Alaskan, and British Columbia examples
are associated with plutons that intruded the ancient contin-
ental margin or pericratonic terranes that had been already
regionally metamorphosed. A potentially recognizable fea-
ture of such plutons may be their paradoxical metaluminous
or alkalic character, despite having a highly radiogenic iso-
topic ancestry that suggests an ancient crustal derivation. The
RIRGS-associated plutons in the Yukon and Alaska, even the
most metaluminous examples, have high radiogenic initial
strontium ratios >0.71 and epsilon Nd values from –7 to –15
(Farmer et al., 2000; Lang, 2001; Mair, 2005; compiled in
Hart et al., 2005 and references therein).
Geological Settings and Ore Controls
The RIRGS are best developed in and surrounding the
apices of small, cylindrical-shaped plutons that intruded
sedimentary or metasedimentary country rocks (Figs. 5 and
6). Intrusion-hosted mineralization is preferentially sited in
tensional zones that develop in the pluton’s brittle carapace
near the country rock contact.
Pluton size is important because batholiths are unlikely
to develop into mineralizing systems. The RIRGS are gen-
erally well developed, surrounding small (<2 km2) isolated
plutons with mineralization in the intrusion and in the horn-
felsed thermal aureole. Larger plutons (2–10 km2) may have
apophyses or later phases that are preferentially mineralized.
Roof zones immediately above plutons may also be mineral-
ized, in particular where there is large surface area of contact
between the pluton and reactive country rocks.
Pluton geometry is also important. Elongate plutons re-
ﬂ ect structural controls on pluton emplacement and indicate
a dominant extensional direction that may be important for
localizing later mineralization. Cylinder-shaped plutons with
steep sides and domed or cupola-like roofs are preferred
geometries because these features enhance ﬂ uid focusing
(Fig. 5). Sharp shoulders also provide regions of structural
and rheological contrast that may enhance development of
ﬂ uid focusing structures (Stephens et al., 2004).
Depth of pluton emplacement may be a feature critical to
RIRGS formation. These systems generally lack multidirec-
tional, interconnected vein stockworks that are characteristic
of porphyry deposits. This is likely due to their deeper levels
of emplacement (5–9 km; Baker and Lang, 2001; Mair et al.,
2006a), whereby the increased conﬁ ning pressure prevents
rapid ﬂ uid exsolution and explosive pressure release, and the
development of high permeability stockworks and breccias.
As well, the depth precludes the entraining of signiﬁ cant vol-
umes of meteoric water and the formation of broad altera-
tion haloes. As a result, ﬂ uid ﬂ ow and mineralization in most
RIRGS systems is largely controlled by structural features that
impinge on the thermally driven hydrothermal system (Hart et
al., 2000b; Stephens et al., 2000, 2004; Mair, 2005).
The dominant structural control on RIRGS is weak ex-
tension that forms arrays of parallel fractures in the brittle
carapace that are ﬁ lled with thin (0.1–5 cm), auriferous, low-
sulphide quartz veins that form extensive, intrusion-hosted
sheeted arrays (Fig. 7). Hornfels quartzite forms a brittle
host lithology for mineralized quartz veins that range from
shattered “stockworky” fractures to veins several m in width
(O’Dea et al., 2000). Solitary fracture, ﬁ ssure, and shear-
hosted veins occur in the pluton, in the hornfels, and as far
as several km from the pluton, and may ﬁ ll structures that
were active while creating space during pluton emplacement
(Stephens et al., 2004). At Fort Knox, an economically im-
mid-crustal “reservoir” batholith?
FIGURE 5. Hypothetical cross section of a small (100 m–5 km across)
pluton, probably derived from a larger magmatic reservoir, and intrud-
ing into extensional regimes at higher crustal levels. Of note is the
asymmetric hornfels aureole and the early-chilled and more brittle mar-
ginal carapace. Preferred sites of intrusion-hosted Au mineralization are
above the cupola, where exsolved ﬂ uids will accumulate, and mineral-
ized fractures developed in the pluton’s apex and shoulders. Epizonal
styles of mineralization are associated with dike and sill complexes that
would be hosted near the top of the hornfels aureole.
Reduced Intrusion-Related Gold Systems
portant set of late, through-going quartz-rich shear veins cut
through the main part of the intrusion-hosted orebody (Bakke
et al., 2000), but controls on their formation are uncertain.
Disseminated mineralization may also form near pre-existing
structures, which may be older thrust faults. The disseminated
deposit style preferentially develops, however, in more epi-
zonal settings where such brittle fractures are more common,
hornfelsing is more apparent, and ﬂ uid ﬂ ow is more diffuse.
A ﬁ nal feature controlling mineralization in RIRGS is
chemical reactivity of the country rocks (Hart et al., 2000a).
Limestone units within the thermal aureole are obvious sites
for skarn formation, and the presence of reduced skarns may
indicate plutons that are prospective for intrusion-hosted
sheeted vein deposits within the larger system. Most associat-
ed skarns are scheelite dominant, but they may be overprinted
by a lower-temperature Au mineralizing event (Mair, 2005).
Hornfelsed, variably calcareous, clastic host rocks are host to
auriferous arsenopyrite-rich mineralization, either as replace-
ments, or with diopside ± chlorite ± actinolite skarns that can
be widespread, occurring several kilometres away from the
causative pluton (Hart et al., 2000a; Mair et al., 2006a).
Deposit Size, Morphology, and Architecture
Areas inﬂ uenced by ﬂ uid interactions from the causative
pluton in RIRGS are generally restricted to the limits of the
hornfelsed zones, which themselves may extend for as far as 3
km from the pluton’s margins. Deposit size and geometry are
also dependent on the style of mineralization, and because in-
trusion-hosted sheeted vein arrays are the most economically
signiﬁ cant style, they are preferentially discussed. The Fort
Knox deposit is contained within the 1000 m × 600 m surface
exposure of the Vogt stock (Bakke et al., 2000). Geometry of
the top part of the orebody is controlled by the limits of in-
trusive rocks, and at depth by cut-off grade that is affected by
the density of late, higher-grade shear veins. At Dublin Gulch,
the wallrock contacts, likely due to preferential fracturing of
the more brittle, early-chilled pluton carapace, as well as the
obvious rheological differences (Stephens et al., 2004).
Intrusion-hosted orebodies may be aligned with the strike
direction of extensional fractures that likely result from the
same far-ﬁ eld stresses that controlled pluton emplacement
and, therefore, may parallel the elongate direction of the
pluton. These mineralized corridors are commonly ﬁ lled
with pegmatite, aplite, and lamprophyre dikes.
The epizonal mineralization at Brewery Creek is distal
to the causative pluton and occurs in ten orebodies that are
distributed over a 12 km-long corridor known as the “reserve
trend” (Diment and Craig, 1999; Lindsay et al., 2000). Thick
monzonitic sills along this trend are preferentially fractured
compared to surrounding carbonaceous shales, and they host
most of the ore. Individual orebodies are generally a few
hundred metres long. The thickness of most of the orebodies
is uncertain, because most were only explored to their lim-
its of oxidation (~30 m); however, recent drilling indicates
locally high-grade sulphide ores at greater depths (e.g., 6.8
g/t Au over 15.3 m at 70 m depth; Alexco Resources Corp.,
Ore Paragenesis, Mineralogy, and Zonation
The ore paragenesis, mineralogy, and related zonation
is controlled by the temperature of ﬂ uids during mineral
deposition and ﬂ uid-wallrock interactions. As such, the ore
stages deﬁ ne various metal assemblages that vary in time
and space, are well developed with their distance away from
the causative pluton, and change according to the nature of
the country rocks. Within the paragenesis, the earliest ore
stages as characterized by Brown et al. (2002), and Mair et
al. (2006b) are within skarns developed on the pluton’s mar-
gins. Features of vein paragenesis are illustrated schematic-
ally in Figure 9 and are summarized below from the work of
there are four zones of sheeted mineralization
within the 6 km × 2 km pluton (Fig. 8a). The
mineralized zones are on the pluton’s shoulders
and the largest zone, the Eagle zone, is in the
barely unroofed pluton’s western margin and
in the adjacent country rocks. The Eagle zone
covers a surface area of approximately 1000
m × 500 m, has been intersected by drilling at
depths of 300 m, and remains open at depth
(Smit et al., 1996; Hitchins and Orssich, 1995).
The best grades form a shell within a few hun-
dred metres of the pluton’s margins, which
likely represents the carapace; grades then de-
crease with depth (Fig. 8b). Similarly, lower
vein density and lower grades are indicated at
the deeper levels of the Fort Knox orebody.
Elsewhere, sheeted vein arrays are com-
monly tens of metres wide and hundreds of
metres long, and usually entirely within the in-
trusion, but less commonly in well-developed
hornfels zones above the pluton. Within sheeted
veins zones, ore grade intersections of at least
3 to 5 veins per metre are best developed near
FIGURE 6. Looking west into the Fort Knox (Alaska) open pit (July 2004). The light colored
rocks are the ca. 92 Ma Vogt pluton that hosts the ore. The deposit is entirely within the ex-
posed part of the pluton, whose top is only barely exposed by erosion as shown by the thin
remnant of overlying dark, hornfels country rocks.
many authors, including Maloof et al. (2001), Marsh et al.
(2003), and Mair et al. (2006b).
Early ore stages are dominated by high-temperature
(650°C) anhydrous diopsidic pyroxene-plagioclase skarns
that locally contain scheelite. Lower-temperature (420°C),
and sometimes overprinting, hydrous, either biotite-, zoisite-
, or actinolite-dominant skarn assemblages may be Au-bear-
ing where they contain signiﬁ cant amounts of sulphide min-
erals. High-temperature sulphide assemblages are dominated
by pyrrhotite>>chalcopyrite, but lower-temperature assem-
blages are dominated by arsenopyrite with various Bi-Te-Sb-
Pb-Au minerals and alloys (Fig. 10). All silicate assemblages
lack garnet, which is a feature of reduced skarns (Meinert,
Early veins are dominantly intrusion-hosted and are char-
acterized by alkali feldspar-, mica-, and scheelite-bearing
quartz veins that may host only sparse sulphide minerals and
may lack Au. Slightly lower-temperature, sheeted vein arrays
are similar but may host up to a few percent pyrite or arsen-
opyrite, but with blebs of various Au-Bi-Te alloys, and are the
key hosts to Au mineralization. At the system scale, and more
commonly outside of the intrusion, are more sulphide-rich
arsenopyrite and antimony veins. The last gasps of the hydro-
thermal event generate Ag-Pb-Zn-bearing quartz veins which
occur in the most distal locations, often beyond the limits of
the hornfelsed aureole. These distal Ag-rich galena-sphalerite
quartz-carbonate veins also form the 30 km-long Keno Hill
Ag district and may indicate a regional zoning within the
Tombstone Gold Belt.
The mineralogy of intrusion-hosted sheeted veins, such
as those at Dublin Gulch and Fort Knox, comprise a single
stage of massive, translucent grey or white quartz, locally
with subordinate coarse-grained, white K-feldspar or mica
that are most commonly on the vein margins. Some veins are
“dry”, lacking quartz, and consist of sulphide mineral-coated
fractures with biotite, which form a limonitic gouge where
oxidized. Low sulphide contents (0.1%–2%) typify intrusion-
hosted assemblages, which are dominated by pyrite > pyrrhot-
ite > arsenopyrite with accessory scheelite and bismuthinite.
Arsenopyrite is much more abundant in country rock-hosted
veins (up to 10 vol.%), and is common with pyrrhotite in re-
placement-style mineralization. Accessory molybdenite oc-
curs locally in thin quartz veins; chalcopyrite, sphalerite, and
galena are sparse. Cassiterite has been reported near some oc-
currences (e.g., Tin Dome at Dublin Gulch) but is rare and
does not occur with Au.
Native Bi and Bi-bearing sulphosalt minerals are com-
monly described from various mineralization styles in RIRGS.
They occur late in the paragenesis and are typically alloyed
with Te, Pb, Sb, or Au. Tellurobismutite, maldonite, tet-
radymite, native Bi, boulangerite, and Bi-Pb sulphosalts have
been recognized at Fort Knox (McCoy et al., 1997, 2002).
At Dublin Gulch, approximately 40% of the Au occurs as
complex intergrowths with native Bi (Hitchins and Orssich,
1995), but Au also occurs in Bi-Pb sulphosalts with galena
and molybdenite (Maloof et al., 2001), and with bismuthinite,
tetradymite, tellurobismuthite (Hitchins and Orssich, 1995).
The common association of very high ﬁ neness free Au within
or adjacent to native Bi or bismuth-bearing minerals suggests
that Au may have exsolved from earlier, high-temperature Bi-
alloys, upon cooling (Fig. 10).
Ore mineralogy at the epizonal Brewery Creek deposit is
distinctly different but relatively simple. It is dominated by
early pyrite, with associated arsenian pyrite and arsenopyr-
ite (Diment and Craig, 1999; Lindsay et al., 2000). Oxidized
mineralization appears disseminated with limonite, but hypo-
gene ore shows sulphide minerals in, and adjacent to, spaced,
sulphidized fractures lacking quartz. Gold is refractory, being
associated with acicular arsenopyrite and the arsenian pyrite
overgrowths on early pyrite. Although late stibnite veins are
also a common feature, their association with Au is equivo-
FIGURE 7. (A) Outcrop-scale exposure of an array of intrusion-hosted,
sheeted quartz veins in the apex of the Rhosgobel pluton at Clear Creek,
Yukon. One- to three-cm-wide veins of simple, single-stage quartz with
minor sulphides and scheelite ﬁ ll parallel, extensional fractures that
may extend for hundreds of metres. Individual veins may contain 50
g/t Au, but host rocks are barren such that vein density is the grade-
controlling feature. Wide intersections generally average 1 g/t Au. Note
14 cm-long marker pen (circled in red) for scale. (B) Ore from Fort
Knox i s dominated by a series of subparallel, white and grey, single-
stage quartz-sulphide veins that are parallel with the east–west elongate
direction of the pluton, and other structural elements such as dikes and
shears (in this photo, the veins are offset by a small fracture). It should
be noted that there are not interconnected, multidirectional quartz vein
stockworks that are typical of porphyry deposits. Alteration, mainly
sericite-calcite, is limited to the immediate vein selvages.
Reduced Intrusion-Related Gold Systems
Nesbitt, 1987), occur only in skarns formed from alkalic or
more oxidized plutons. Hornfels-hosted ores, which may be
veins, disseminations, or replacements, are more sulphide-
rich than intrusion-hosted ores, and are characterized by
elevated As that correlates with Au (Flannigan et al., 2000).
Distal mineralization, which forms at or beyond the limits of
hornfels, is dominated by a Pb-Ag-Zn or Sb-rich geochem-
ical association, and typically occurs as fault-ﬁ lled veins.
Vertical zonation patterns within a system may mimic
the lateral zonation, but may be less evident due to the
much broader thermal gradients that occur above the pluton.
Mineralization or entire orebodies (e.g., Gil in the Fairbanks
The RIRGS are geochemically distinguished from oxi-
dized intrusion-related mineralizing systems by their domin-
ance in Au, associated W, and lack of anomalous Cu. Tungsten
enrichments and deposits occur within the RIRGS, such as the
Ray Gulch W skarn at Dublin Gulch, but Au and W enrich-
ments may be spatially distinct (Brown et al., 2002), or later
Au may overprint early W veins or skarns (Mair et al., 2006a).
Bismuth and Te are common elements but are also character-
istic features of many other deposit models.
Sulphide-rich (10%) sheeted veins at Clear Creek contain
up to 30 g/t Au, as much as 1 wt.% As, and 100 to 1000 ppm
quartz biotite hornfels
quartzite, phyllite, schist
foliation quartz-sulfide vein
scheelite in placer
gold in placer
sheeted vein zone
DG92-60 DG91-4 DG91-2
FIGURE 8. (A) The Dublin Gulch pluton is a good example of a RIRGS with many differ-
ent styles of mineralization, including intrusion-hosted sheeted vein arrays, scheelite-bearing
skarns, tin greisens, Au- and arsenopyrite-bearing quartz veins, and creeks with placer Au and
scheelite. Bismuthinite has also been found in the placer concentrates. Beyond the limits of
this ﬁ gure, and the hornfels zone, Ag-Pb-Zn-bearing quartz veins also occur. (B) Cross section
of the Eagle zone at the west end of the Dublin Gulch pluton. Sheeted vein arrays are shown
schematically but are mostly concentrated in the margins of the apical region of the pluton
and do not appreciably occur in the adjacent, less-competent wall rocks. Modiﬁ ed from Smit
et al. (1996), with drill intersections (given as metres/grams per tonne Au) from Hitchins and
Bi and W (Marsh et al., 1999). At Fort Knox,
Au strongly correlates with Bi and Te, and but
weak enrichments of W, Mo, Sb, and As do
not correlate with elevated Au (Bakke, 1995;
Flanigan et al., 2000). High Au grade intersec-
tions at Dublin Gulch have elevated Bi, As,
Sb, Cu, and Zn concentrations, although again
Au grades solely correlate with Bi (Maloof et
al., 2001) and probably with Te, but such data
are unavailable. Factor analysis on the Clear
Creek veins indicated a dominant Au-rich As-
Au-Bi±Sb,Te element association, and a base
metal suite of Ag-Bi-Pb±As, Au that represents
a cooler/later assemblage (Marsh et al., 1999).
Tungsten displays little correlation with either
element suite, but had values of >300 ppm in
many Au-rich samples. Similarly, mineraliza-
tion at Scheelite Dome was characterized by
both a Au-Te-Bi±W±As and a Ag-Pb-Zn-Cd-
Sb±Cu±Au elemental association, with the
latter characteristic of ores in the nearby Keno
Hill Ag district (Mair et al., 2000).
Epizonal Au at Brewery Creek lacks the
typical W, Bi, and Te association. Instead, Au
ores occur with arsenopyrite and are, therefore,
dominated by As. Late fractures host stibnite
enrichments but Au-Sb correlations are erratic.
Additionally, Hg was recovered during min-
ing, thus giving Brewery Creek an As-Sb-Hg
Geochemical zoning occurs at the pluton
scale, with elemental zonation reﬂ ecting the
cooling trend of the hydrothermal ﬂ uids, with
a component of country-rock buffering. The
pluton’s geochemical inﬂ uence is typically on
the order of 1 to 3 km, but can be larger in roof
zones above the pluton, for example >10 km
at Scheelite Dome. Intrusion-hosted ores are
dominated by a Au-W-Bi-Te signature with Au
correlating well with Bi and Te, but not at all
with W (Fig. 11). Geochemical signatures of
high-temperature skarns adjacent to the pluton
may be similar, but in some systems, As and W
enrichments may be more signiﬁ cant than Bi-
Te signatures. Percent-level Cu and Bi, with
8.6 g/t Au at the Marn deposit (Brown and
area) may be within a roof zone altered to hornsfel above
unexposed plutons, which may be several kilometres below
and fail to show apparent zoning trends. Within the pluton,
suggestions of W or Mo enrichments at depth (Bakke, 1995)
have not been supported by data, but decreases in Au grades
with depth are evident at Fort Knox. A key aspect of verti-
cal zonation within RIRGS are the more apparent variations
within shallowly emplaced systems. The Brewery Creek de-
posit and nearby occurrences (Ida, Oro) emphasize that the
ﬂ uid systems associated with these more shallowly emplaced
systems (~3 km) take on epizonal characteristics and metal
signatures in response to the lower temperatures.
Alteration Mineralogy and Fluid Geochemistry
Alteration in intrusion-hosted ores is neither extensive
nor intensive, and is typically limited to 0.5 to 3 cm-wide
selvages adjacent to the veins with intervening, apparently
fresh, barren rock (Fig. 7B). Alteration proximal to veins most
commonly consists of either texture-destructive K-feldspar
replacement (Maloof et al., 2001) or pervasive carbonate re-
placement of maﬁ c minerals. An adjacent sericite-dominant ±
pyrite ± carbonate assemblage overprinting plagioclase and
maﬁ c minerals is common. In particular, this alteration dis-
tinguishes Au-bearing from (higher-temperature?) non-Au-
bearing veins at Fort Knox (P. Jensen, pers. commun., 2002).
Chlorite alteration may be more distal, but is not pervasive
throughout the host rocks. Vein-proximal alteration may be
Carbonate-base metal veins
B R I T T LE FAILUR E
FIGURE 9. Schematic paragenesis of evolving types and metal associa-
tions of mineralization in typical cooling RIRGS. As well as time, the
lower axis could also represents distance away from the ﬂ uid source
such that As-, Sb- and Ag-P-Zn veins are almost exclusively beyond
the causative pluton.
FIGURE 10. SEM backscatter image of Scheelite Dome Au-W-As-Bi
skarn (Tom zone), emphasizing the occurrence of Bi-Te-Sb alloys and
Au. Gold occurs as small, 5 to 20 micron particles near larger Bi-Te-
Sb alloys that occur as intergrain inﬁ llings. Gold may be deposited in
high-temperature alloys and exsolved out upon cooling. This sample
contains 17 g/t Au, 12 ppm Te, 426 ppm Bi, 161 ppm W, and 3300 ppm
As. Gold in vein-hosted ores has a similar character and metal tenor.
Figure and data courtesy of John Mair.
FIGURE 11. Binary element plots of intrusion-hosted ores dominated by
sheeted veins that demonstrate a Au-Bi-Te-W association. Gold dis-
plays a high positive correlation with Bi and Te, but not with W. These
data are from the Rhosgobel zone at Clear Creek (Yukon); each point
represents the analysis of 1.5 m of drill core. Note that there are fewer
analyses for Te.
Reduced Intrusion-Related Gold Systems
cryptic and more easily observed on weathered surfaces.
Alternatively, alteration of country rocks surrounding a caus-
ative pluton may be both intensive and extensive. Although
typically dominated by prograde alteration to biotite-quartz
± pyrrhotite hornfels, later retrograde ﬂ uid-dominated altera-
tion may be widespread. For example, sericite after biotite
may occupy large regions of the hornfels aureole, such as at
Scheelite Dome (Mair et al., 2000), and is also a more fo-
cused feature of distal Ag-Pb-Zn veins in the Keno Hill dis-
trict (Lynch, 1989). At the epizonal Brewery Creek deposit,
PIMA (Portable Infrared Mineral Analyser) studies indicate
that hypogene ores contain illite surrounded by a more ex-
tensive ankerite alteration halo (R. Diment, pers. commun.,
The ﬂ uid chemistry of the intrusion-hosted sheeted veins
of Yukon deposits has been well documented by Baker and
Lang (2001), Baker (2002), Marsh et al. (2003), and Mair
et al. (2006). Most Au-W-Bi-Te veins consist of early high-
temperature (380°–300°C), CO2-rich (5%–14%), low-salinity
(2–6 wt.% NaCl equiv.) aqueous carbonic ﬂ uids with CH4 and
N2. These ﬂ uids cooled and locally unmixed to yield lower
temperature (mostly 280°–250°C, but as low as 160°C), im-
miscible, low-salinity (0.2 wt.% NaCl equiv.) and high-salin-
ity (6–15 wt.% NaCl equiv.) aqueous ﬂ uids lacking signiﬁ -
cant CO2, which formed the As-, Sb-, and Ag-Pb-Zn veins.
In alkalic magmatic systems that have associated Cu min-
eralization, such as Mike Lake and Emerald Lake, the ﬂ uids
evolved to become highly saline with 30 to 55 wt.% NaCl
equivalent. Skarns and veins interacting with country rocks
have elevated CH4, which likely results from interactions with
the sedimentary rocks causing more evolved ﬂ uids to become
increasingly reduced (Mair et al., 2006a). In epizonal systems
such as Brewery Creek, the ﬂ uids are aqueous and lack CO2,
but are characterized locally by high salinities. Fluid inclu-
sion barometry indicates Au deposition at most sites (Dublin
Gulch, Clear Creek, Scheelite Dome) at depths of 3 to 9 km
(mostly 5–7 km).
Comprehensive light stable isotopic studies of oxygen and
sulphur have been undertaken at the Clear Creek (Marsh et al.,
2003) and Scheelite Dome (Mair et al., 2006a) systems. The
δ18Oquartz of the Au-W-Bi-Te sheeted quartz veins range from
14 to 16 per mil, slightly heavier than the host granitic rocks
at 11 to 13 per mil, and similar to values of 13 to 16 per mil for
host sedimentary rocks. Antimony and Ag-Pb-Zn veins host-
ed by country rocks have δ18O values of 17 to 20 per mil re-
ﬂ ecting extensive wall-rock interaction. Sulphur isotope data
display values of 0 to –3 per mil for intrusion-hosted quartz
Au-W-Bi-Te veins, 2 to –7 per mil for various skarn mineral-
ization, –7 to –10 per mil for country rock-hosted arsenopyrite
veins, and –9 to –11 per mil for Ag-Pb-Zn veins. Like the oxy-
gen isotope and ﬂ uid inclusion data, the δ34S values indicate
a trend that reﬂ ects progressive interaction with sedimentary
country rocks as the hydrothermal system evolves and cools.
Therefore, in addition to phase separation, progressive cool-
ing and reduction of the ﬂ uid were likely mechanisms of Au
deposition (Mair et al., 2006a).
Empirical and Genetic Exploration Models
A schematic empirical model for RIRGS (Fig. 12) in-
corporates observable features from the “type” deposits and
occurrences in the Yukon and Alaska. The key empirical fea-
tures have been described above, but those features that are
considered as critically distinguishing attributes are listed
Mineralization extends beyond the limits of the intrusion,
and locally beyond the thermal aureole yielding a broad min-
eralizing system (Fig. 8A). The size of the system is gener-
ally dictated by the limits of the thermal aureole, commonly
several kilometres across, but can be dependent on the depth
of erosion with the broadest and best developed mineraliza-
tion at the top of or above the pluton (Fig. 5).
Differing styles of mineralization emphasize not only the
extent of the mineralizing system, but also the involvement
of the country rock and its role in creating mineral system
diversity. Chemically reactive and/or physically brittle sedi-
mentary strata result in a diversity of mineralization styles,
whereas the causative pluton is typically dominated by sole-
ly sheeted vein sets.
Zoned Deposit Types
RIRGS typically deposit metals in intrusion-hosted, con-
tact, pluton-proximal, and pluton-distal settings, and thus
exhibit a predictable zonation of differing deposit styles out-
ward from the central, mineralizing pluton (Fig. 12). Skarns
and replacements are generally pluton proximal, with an
increase in structural control on more distal mineralization.
There is also crustal-scale vertical zonation, with epizonal
occurrences forming at shallower levels.
Concentric Metal Zoning
Predictable metal signatures develop broad-scale zon-
ing surrounding and above a central causative pluton, due
primarily to the effects of steep thermal gradients on ﬂ uid
chemistry (Figs. 9, 12). Gradients and metal zones are steep-
er on the sides of the pluton and broadly developed above it
(Fig. 5). Zoning is somewhat analogous to that identiﬁ ed in
porphyry systems (e.g., Jones, 1992).
Gold, as well as W, may form ore, but Au does not dir-
ectly correlate with W (Fig. 11). Bismuth and Te are enriched
in intrusion-hosted Au ores and correlate with Au. Arsenic
enrichments characterize hornfels-hosted mineralization and
form regional-scale geochemical anomalies.
Associated plutons are generally small and solitary, with
“smoking gun” characteristics that indicate they were the
source of the hydrothermal ﬂ uids. Features that provide evi-
dence of high volatile contents, fractionation, and ﬂ uid ex-
solution include the presence of hornblende in biotite granit-
oids, textural and grain-size variations, aplite and pegmatite
dikes, tourmaline veins, miarolitic cavities and vugs, gre-
isen-style alteration, unidirectional solidiﬁ cation textures,
and cupola-hosted mineralization (Fig. 13).
The RIRGS are associated with felsic, ilmenite-series
plutons that lack magnetite and, as such, have low magnetic
susceptibilities, low ferric:ferrous ratios (<0.3), and ﬂ at aero-
magnetic responses. Associated mineralization has a reduced
character, with pyrrhotite commonly the dominant sulphide
mineral and ﬂ uids that may locally contain methane.
The RIRGS genetic model requires that the ore-gener-
ating cooling pluton reaches volatile saturation and that a
ﬂ uid exsolves from the melt. Metals and volatiles such as
sulphur and halogens presumably preferentially partition
from the melt into an exsolving aqueous-carbonic ore ﬂ uid
phase. Pressure, or depth of emplacement, exerts the greatest
control on volatile saturation, particularly because volatiles
are easily dissolved in felsic melts under higher pressures
(Burnham and Ohmoto, 1980). However, volatile saturation
is also induced by magmatic processes such as fractional
crystallization, magma mixing, or simple cooling. Pluton
emplacement depth appears, therefore, to be critical and ex-
plains why RIRGS are typically associated with a speciﬁ c
suite of plutons distributed over a broad area; such plutons
likely represent melt crystallization at the same general
At the pluton scale, mineralization is limited to regions
above and outward from the site of volatile saturation. Being
less dense than the melt, ﬂ uids will migrate to the upper-
most parts of the less viscous portion of the magma chamber,
which is usually the volatile-rich magmatic cupola immedi-
ately under the earlier-formed carapace (Candela and Blevin,
will have a metal tenor dominated by Cu and potentially Au.
In reduced magmatic systems, Cu is likely stripped out by the
early precipitation of sulphide melt blebs, whereas W behaves
incompatibly and, therefore, is enriched during fractionation.
Tungsten is relatively easy to mobilize in reduced, CO2-rich
hydrothermal systems. Controls on the partitioning of Au in
evolving magmatic systems is poorly understood, but empir-
ically it is associated with and enriched in both highly oxi-
dized and moderately reduced systems (e.g., Leveille et al.,
1988; Rowins, 2000; Mungall, 2002); in the latter case, this
may lead to formation of a RIRGS.
Knowledge of magmatic ﬂ uid physical and chemical
properties for most intrusion-related mineral deposits was
originally based on comparison with the porphyry model that
emphasized the role of highly saline aqueous ﬂ uids in metal
transport under oxidized magmatic conditions (e.g., Burnham,
1979). The RIRGS are, however, dominated by aqueous car-
bonic ﬂ uids that have high volumes of CO2 and low salin-
ities, are largely reduced, and only locally contain highly sa-
line ﬂ uids (Baker and Lang, 2001; Marsh et al., 2003; Mair
et al., 2006b). These ﬂ uids are unlike those in porphyry Cu
The concentration of metals through magma fractiona-
tion have been suggested by McCoy et al. (1997) for the
Alaskan RIRGS and was shown to occur in the more siliceous
Timbarra system of eastern Australia (Mustard et al., 2006).
Conversely, Mair (2005), working in Yukon, has suggested
that input of volatile-rich maﬁ c magmas were likely respon-
sible for volatile enrichment that assisted the early, less-vola-
tile, siliceous magmas in reaching ﬂ uid saturation. It is uncer-
tain but probable that this mixing also played a role in metal
enrichment as well.
Because an underlying feature of the RIRGS classiﬁ ca-
tion is the direct genetic association of mineralization with a
causative magma, geochronology is of fundamental import-
ance in processes studies. Many lines of evidence suggest that
Au-W - calc-alk
Au-Cu - alkalic
veins & lamprophyres
aplite & pegmatite dikes
roof zone thermal aureole
small elongate pluton
Au-Bi-Te±W As-Au As-Sb-Au Ag-Pb-Zn
FIGURE 12. General plan model of RIRGS from the Tintina Gold Province. Of note are the wide
range of mineralization styles and geochemical variations that vary predictably outward from
a central pluton. Scale is dependent on the size of the exposed pluton, which is likely to range
from 100 m to 5 km in diameter. Modiﬁ ed from Hart et al. (2002).
1995). Fluids will invade fractures in the cara-
pace and opportunistically leak into and react
with adjacent country rocks. Mineral occur-
rences are, therefore, most commonly sited
at the pluton’s apex, in the igneous carapace,
or in hornfelsed country rocks adjacent to and
above the pluton. The host plutons to many
RIRGS likely have magma volumes that are
too small to provide the large amount of met-
als and volatiles contained in these deposits,
thereby suggesting the participation of larger
volumes of primary magmatic ﬂ uids and met-
als (Candela and Piccoli, 2005). These could
include deeper unexposed batholiths or maﬁ c
The metallogeny of mineral deposits asso-
ciated with intrusive rocks is mainly controlled
by the associated magma’s primary oxida-
tion state (Ishihara, 1981) and the degree of
magma fractionation (Thompson et al., 1999;
Fig. 14). Highly oxidized magmas in arc en-
vironments that are relatively unfractionated
Reduced Intrusion-Related Gold Systems
these magmatic systems cool quickly, indicating that magma-
tic and hydrothermal processes must be essentially coeval.
Comparative geochronology on magmatic and hydrothermal
phases using different analytical methods indicates that an
entire magmatic-hydrothermal system can be discerned to
within a 2 to 3 million year window (Selby et al., 2001; Hart
et al., 2004b).
Key Exploration Criteria
At the regional scale, exploration should focus on the
foreland parts of orogenic belts where felsic plutons have
intruded ancient continental margins, inland of accreted ter-
ranes or collisional zones. These regions may be historically
better recognized for their W or Sn metal tenor, and may also
host Ag-rich veins or Au placers that are associated with the
plutons. All mineralizing plutons that belong to the same suite
or time interval are potential targets for RIRGS. Prospective
plutons were preferably intruded deeper than ~5 km to keep
these low-volume hydrothermal systems contained in the
melts and subsequently focused during exsolution. RIRGS
associated with shallower plutons are characterized by more
diffuse epizonal styles of mineralization and a Au-As-Sb-Hg
signature. Associated plutons will have low primary oxidation
states and are, therefore, easy to differentiate from magnetite-
series plutons of true continental margin arcs that have associ-
ated Cu-Mo porphyry deposits.
At the deposit scale, targeting the pluton’s carapace is
critical such that those plutons that are barely unroofed are
considered the best locations for RIRGS. Roof zones above
plutons are also highly prospective, but may be difﬁ cult to
target as they are rarely noted on geological maps. Deeply
eroded plutons, recognized by their large circular-shaped sur-
face areas, are unlikely to yield large-tonnage intrusion-host-
ed sheeted vein deposits, but may nevertheless have hornfels
with Au-bearing skarns or veins. Understanding the structural
controls on pluton emplacement may be key to developing
targets and preferred deposit orientations within a magmatic-
hydrothermal system (Stephens et al., 2004). Additional ex-
ploration techniques and exploration pathways to discovery
are described in Hart et al. (2002).
Regional geochemical surveys are very good at identi-
fying mineralizing plutons, particularly where characterized
by broad As aureoles, such as those of the Tombstone Gold
Belt (Fig. 15). Placer Au may occur in related drainages in
signiﬁ cant amounts (>100 000 oz; e.g., Allen et al., 1999).
Placer scheelite is also a feature of many occurrences. Soil
geochemistry can be extremely effective locally at delineat-
ing potential mineralization within the area of a causative
pluton, and recognizing mineralized portions of its horn-
felsed zone (e.g., Diment and Craig, 1999; Hulstein et al.,
1999). Soil lines should cross the extensional direction that
may mimic a pluton’s elongation direction. Gold grades
can be up to several grams per tonne in some soils, but low
anomaly thresholds (25 ppb Au) may be required for surveys
with low geochemical response (Diment and Craig, 1999).
Anomalous Bi, Te, or W values, or multi-element analyses
using metal ratios or factor analysis can assist in interpreta-
tion of vein types or predicting more proximal (i.e., intru-
sion-hosted) ores in areas with poor rock exposure (Marsh et
al., 1999; Mair et al., 2000).
Geophysical methods that identify Au mineralization in
RIRGS are still elusive, but potential-ﬁ eld methods are ideal
at assisting interpretations of geological settings where ores
could be found. Regional aeromagnetic surveys are effective
at identifying unmapped or unexposed plutons or locating
roof zones (Fig. 16). Associated plutons have low magnetic
responses; however, pyrrhotite concentrations in hornfelsed
aureoles may yield doughnut-shaped signatures for exposed
plutons and simple bulls eyes for roof zones of unexposed
plutons (Hart et al., 2002). This response is pronounced in
reducing sedimentary rocks where pyrrhotite formation is
FIGURE 13. Vug in the Fort Knox pluton ﬁ lled with coarse-grained
quartz, feldspar, and (chloritized) amphibole. Features such as this indi-
cate that the pluton reached ﬂ uid saturation and exsolved a hydrother-
mal ﬂ uid. A pluton’s response to high volatile contents is the formation
of pegmatitic and aplitic dikes as well as a mineralizing ﬂ uid.
oxidized porphyry copper±gold deposits
FIGURE 14. Schematic plot emphasizing the variations in metal asso-
ciation as a function of the primary magmatic oxidation state and the
lithologic character of the associated plutonic rocks. Gold, associated
with RIRGS plot in the ﬁ eld occupied by W systems but notably is
far removed from the more characteristic Au-Cu ﬁ eld that is associated
with highly oxidized and more maﬁ c magmas. The result is that Au can
be enriched in both oxidized and reduced magmas, but that a reduced
oxidation state may be necessary for Au enrichment in fractionated sys-
tems. The corollary is that fractionated oxidized systems are likely to be
depleted in Au. Modiﬁ ed from Thompson et al. (1999).
al overview of the most signiﬁ cant recognized RIRGS
(Bakke, 1995; Bakke et al., 2000), Fort Knox remains
among the most poorly studied and understood example.
In contrast, Dublin Gulch (Hitchins and Orssich, 1995;
Maloof et al., 2001), Scheelite Dome (Mair, 2004; Mair et
al., 2006b), and Clear Creek (Marsh et al., 2003; Stephens
et al., 2004) have all seen more focused studies.
Many critical questions still need to be answered. What
features of a causative pluton’s magmatic character are
important in the formation of RIRGS? Are the Tombstone
Gold Belt plutons unique? Why are these deposits not
more common in similar tectonic settings elsewhere, or
in Precambrian rocks?
The controlling features of most of the ore-forming pro-
cesses, such as metal enrichment and volatile saturation
remain poorly understood, and knowledge gaps are near-
ly identical to those identiﬁ ed by Sinclair (2007) for por-
phyry deposits associated with oxidized magmas. More
speciﬁ c to RIRGS, however, is the role of oxidation state
on controlling Au concentration in magmatic systems.
There is controversy about the most appropriate model
for many Au deposits; in particular, the Pogo and Donlin
Creek deposits of interior Alaska have been interpreted as
both RIRGS (Smith et al., 1999; Ebert et al., 2000; Rhys
more likely but otherwise may be lacking.
Within intrusion-hosted systems, geophysical explora-
tion methods have largely yielded ambiguous to poor results
(Bakke, 1995). Within the hornfelsed aureoles, however,
magnetic methods allow identiﬁ cation of major structures as
lows produced by alteration of pyrrhotite. Induced polariza-
tion methods are useful for identifying reactive and sulphid-
ized zones within the hornfels when targeting disseminated-,
replacement-, or skarn-type ores (M. Powers and G. Carlson,
pers. commun. 1999).
This evolving RIRGS classiﬁ cation suffers from nom-
enclature issues and there is a need for a framework for
all intrusion-related deposit models to emphasize dis-
tinguishing characteristics (Hart, 2005). In particular,
there is uncertainty about the inclusion of many of the
variants of intrusion-related mineralization styles (e.g.,
epizonal, veins), as well as other global or Archean ex-
amples, which result in considerable uncertainty in this
deposit classiﬁ cation.
Knowledge gaps identiﬁ ed by Thompson and Newberry
(2000), and Lang and Baker (2001) emphasize the need
for improved basic deposit descriptions and focused re-
search on individual systems. Despite a good geologic-
FIGURE 15. Gridded and contoured regional stream silt geochemical data for arsenic for the west-central Yukon. Sample density is one per 13 km2.
Background values are <50 ppm As, and regions in red have values >500 ppm As. Data are compiled from Geological Survey of Canada open ﬁ le
reports (Geological Survey of Canada, 1978, 1990, 1991). Despite the dominance of arsenopyrite in the Brewery Creek orebodies, note the absence
of a signiﬁ cant As anomaly for this poorly exposed property.
Reduced Intrusion-Related Gold Systems
et al., 2003) and orogenic (Goldfarb et al., 2000, 2004,
2005; Groves et al., 2003). Even Central Asian gold
deposits, such as Muruntau (Sillitoe, 1991; Wall et al.,
2004) and Jilau (Cole et al., 2000), have been considered
to be RIRGS. It is important, therefore, that a clear set
of characteristics that distinguish RIRGS from orogenic
gold deposits be established.
Areas of High Potential in Canada
Good potential still remains in central Yukon, where num-
erous plutonic systems intruding the continental margin were
originally (ca. 1994) assessed for only their intrusion-hosted
ores with little effort directed towards hornfels-hosted ores.
Although the RIRGS classiﬁ cation still requires improve-
ment, signiﬁ cant advances in understanding were made dur-
ing a time of limited exploration activity (1998–2003) and the
fruits of that research may not have been effectively applied.
As well, little effort has been directed toward evaluating roof
zones or toward the search for unroofed plutons.
Many RIRGS prospects still have considerable explora-
tion potential, each with numerous untested drill targets.
Scheelite Dome, in particular, has a 10 km-long, >100 ppb Au
soil anomaly that has not been fully explored. Clear Creek’s
Bear Paw zone, with drill intersections of 2.3 g/t Au over 31.8
m, remains open in many directions. Dublin Gulch’s Eagle
zone, currently at 72 t (2.3 million oz) of contained Au, re-
mains open and three other zones of sheeted veins are yet to
be fully drill tested.
In southeastern British Columbia, most effort has been
directed towards large solitary veins, but potential also
exists in targeting bulk tonnage deposits in pluton cupolas.
The greatest potential in BC exists with the Bayonne plu-
tonic suites, but plutons tend to be large, so smaller stocks or
apophyses should be considered.
Exploration for RIRGS in Archean and Proterozoic ter-
ranes has been limited, and perhaps rightfully so consider-
ing the lack of appropriate tectonic environments for their
formation or preservation during these time. However, the
value of Bi-Te signatures as Au pathﬁ nders for intrusion-
related systems in these environments appear to have been
The author is indebted to R. Goldfarb, J. Mair, D. Groves,
T. Baker, J. Stephens, J. Thompson, L. Lewis, M. Burke, J.
Lang, A. Bakke, M. Lindsay, R. Hulstein, A. Doherty, G.
Abbott, D. Murphy, G. Carlson, E. Marsh, C. Freeman, D.
McCoy, and R. Newberry for discussions and insight, and
to the numerous exploration geologists who shared their
FIGURE 16. Residual total magnetic intensity from airborne aeromagnetic data indicate that, despite their low magnetic response, many plutons can be
identiﬁ ed aeromagnetically by the positive signatures generated by magnetic hornfels zones that likely develop from contact metamorphic pyrrhotite
aureoles. The results are doughnut-shaped features with lows generated by the ilmenite-series plutons forming the “holes”. The inset shows detailed
magnetic features in the Mike Lake area, with the black dots indicating mineral occurrences and the lines indicating geological contacts. Notably,
mineralization at the Heidi, Hami, Ida/Oro, and Aussie occurrences are associated with large magnetic expressions, but little or no outcrop of plutonic
rocks. These occurrences, as well as the Red Mountain occurrence, likely represent roof zones above the tops of the mostly unexposed plutons.
knowledge. Much of the work presented herein is based
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ated. Comments and the invitation to participate in this vol-
ume from W. Goodfellow are also appreciated. The Yukon
Geological Survey and The University of Western Australia
are thanked for their continuing support.
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