Carlin-What? A Brief Explanation of Carlin-Type Gold Deposits

Nevada is the largest producer of gold in America and one of the largest gold producers in the world at large. Reports from the Nevada Division of Minerals show that the state produced 5.58 million troy ounces of gold in 2018, accounting for 83% of America’s gold production that year.

In terms of global gold production, Nevada ranked fifth behind the countries of China, Russia, Australia and Canada, producing 5.4% of the world’s gold in 2018. Experts estimate that only a fraction of the gold ore in Nevada has been mined and that there are around 120 million ounces of gold reserves left unexplored.

Furthermore, most of these reserves consist of high-grade, Carlin-type gold deposits (CTGDs). This type of gold ore became popular after the 1961 discovery of the Carlin Gold Deposit and has put Nevada on the global map as a producer of high-grade gold. Carlin-type gold ore contains microscopic, or invisible, gold deposits in a mineral called pyrite, which can be found in sedimentary rocks. As it stands, the Carlin-type gold deposits in Nevada are home to a whopping 255 million ounces of gold, representing one of the largest gold belts in the world.

Around 214 million ounces of these gold deposits are located in the following locations: Carlin camp (118 million ounces), Cortez camp (50 million ounces) and Getchell camp (46 million ounces). CTGDs tend to be hosted in rocks that are close to geological structures in the planet’s crust such as faults, folds and thrust faults.

Thanks to fractures in the terrain, these zones allow hydrothermal fluids that are rich in a variety of minerals to flow up from the crust, essentially acting as a plumbing system that transports matter from deep within the earth’s crust. The sedimentary rocks that host CTGDs also tend to be permeable, and this allows hydrothermal fluids to flow into the rocks from the fractured zones.

Hydrothermal fluids consist of superheated water solutions that carry elements such as gold from the earth’s crust up to the surface and into host rocks. Once the super-heated liquids move through the earth’s crust and reach sedimentary limestone rocks, they dissolve and deposit microscopic deposits of gold in pyrite.

These CTGD hydrothermal fluids also carry mercury, arsenic, thallium and antimony from the crust. These elements are known as CTGD pathfinders because they provide clues to the location of Carlin-type gold deposits.

Carlin-type gold deposits can be found in valley basins and mountain ranges across Nevada. Analysts predict that there are more than 200 million ounces of gold hidden in the unexplored bedrock of mountain ranges. If companies such as Hecla Mining Company (NYSE: HL) could get at those deposits, the demand for this metal could be amply met for years or even decades to come.

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