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How ’orogenic’ is orogenic gold? Field-based study of the Scottish Grampian


About This PhD Project

Project Description

• Use a holistic approach, including a novel method of looking into gold particle characteristics, to distinguish between magmatic and orogenic (non-magmatic) sources for gold
• Field work in Central Scotland, including structural mapping and gold panning
• Access to company data not publically available
• Contribute to the global debate of gold deposit genetic models in orogenic systems.
• Opportunity to publish high-impact papers or focus on industry-style approaches according to your career trajectory

Most vein-hosted gold deposits form by fluid injections and fracture systems that evolve over time. ’Orogenic gold’, hosted in hydrothermal quartzcarbonate veins, is by definition not associated with magmatic fluids. However, many gold deposits classed as orogenic carry signatures suggesting a magmatic fluid component. It is unclear how much the entire fluid system may evolve in time and space (from ‘orogenic’ to magmatic, or vice versa). More research is needed to resolve this: refined global characterisation of gold deposit systems within orogenic belts will aid exploration but also contribute to the general understanding of the evolution of hydrothermal systems within orogenic belts.

You will use a holistic approach, including a novel method developed in Leeds of looking into gold particle characteristics, to distinguish between magmatic and orogenic (non-magmatic) sources for gold in Central Scotland. The hypothesis is that there may be a multi-phase, overlapping fluid evolution in the system which should be reflected in the detailed gold particle characteristics. If a multi-phase deposit evolution can be confirmed, it will be an important contribution to the global debate of gold deposit genetic models in orogenic systems.

The Scottish Grampian Terrane is ideal for this study: the geology is relatively well known and access generally easy. Gold is widespread both as detrital gold and in quartz veins. To date, only one of the known vein systems (Cononish near Tyndrum) has been developed towards production, whilst the rest of the area remains severely under-researched. The potential of significant gold mineralisation in Scotland is generally still under-appreciated despite the existence of Cononish, and of Cavanacaw and Curraghinalt in the Grampian of Northern Ireland.

You will focus on Aberfeldy-Crieff areas. New discoveries of vein mineralisation point to a more complex mineralogy than previously appreciated. Nearby intrusive bodies suggest that some of the mineralisation may be linked to magmatism. The project combines a robust structural understanding with gold particle characterisation and radiometric dating. Structural work is supported by new ground magnetic data acquired by the industry collaborator. You will have an opportunity to pursue a more regional study combining Grampian tectonic evolution with a compositional survey of detrital gold to illuminate regional metallogeny.

The main objectives are:
1. Characterisation of intrusives and veins, including their relationships to the fault/vein framework;
2. Stable isotope and geochronological studies of mineralisation and intrusives;
3. Geophysical studies (magnetic surveys); and
4. Compositional studies of detrital gold.

The expected result will be a genetic model for the deposits, addressing the linkage between i) the structural evolution; ii) magmatic activity; and iii) age of mineralisation. Special focus will be on distinguishing between ’orogenic’ and magmatic signatures, and whether the deposits could host several gold mineralisation events overlapping both orogenic and magmatic systems.

You will join the Ores and Mineralisation Research Group (OMG: https://www.facebook.com/OMGLeeds; Twitter @OMGLeeds). Industry collaborator Greenore Gold provides access to field areas, geological and geophysical data and samples, and previous exploration campaign results. As a NERC DTP student, you have access to isotope laboratories (e.g. SUERC in Glasgow). Previous work at OMG provides crucial background and support, including ongoing PhD studies of gold in the Caledonian terranes of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and Newfoundland.

The PhD is suited to career pathways in academia or industry. You have access to both project-specific scientific training and a range of opportunities through NERC DTP. You will be able to publish research papers, and attend national and international conferences. OMG links and Leeds Chapter of SEG also offer networking opportunities across industry and academia.

Strong structural field work and analytical skills, excellent time management, and effective communication of results are essential. Other desirable but not essential skills include e.g. ore deposit geology, preferably gold deposit geochemistry; isotope systems; granite intrusives; or microanalytical laboratory techniques.

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