Stable C, O, and S isotope record of magmatic-hydrothermal interactions between the Falémé Fe Skarn and the Loulo Au systems in western Mali

James S. Lambert-Smith*, Andrew Allibone, Peter J. Treloar, David M. Lawrence, Adrian J. Boyce, Mark Fanning

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    The Gara, Yalea, and Gounkoto Au deposits of the >17 Moz Loulo mining district, largely hosted by the Kofi series metasediments, are located several kilometers to the east of the 650-Mt Fe skarn deposits in the adjacent Falémé batholith. The Au deposits are interpreted to have formed through phase separation of an aqueous-carbonic fluid, which locally mixed with a hypersaline brine of metaevaporite origin. Recognition of an intrusive relationship between the Falémé batholith and Kofi series opens the possibility that the Fe skarns and Au deposits are part of the same mineral system. In this paper, we combine new δ13C, δ18O, and δ34S data from the Karakaene Ndi skarn, Au occurrences along the western margin of the Kofi series, and zircons within plutonic rocks of the Falémé batholith. We combine these with existing data from the Loulo Au deposits to model the contribution of magmatic volatiles to Au mineralization. C and O isotope compositions of auriferous carbonate-quartz-sulfide veins from the Loulo Au deposits have wide ranges (δ13C: –21.7 to –4.5% and δ18O: 11.8 to 23.2%), whereas values from carbonate veins in Kofi series Au prospects close to the Falémé batholith and the Karakaene Ndi Fe skarn deposit have more restricted ranges (δ13C: –16.8 to –3.7%, δ18O: 11.4 to 17.2%, and δ13C: –3.0 ± 1%, δ18O: 12.6 ± 1%, respectively). Kofi series dolostones have generally higher isotopic values (δ13C: –3.1 to 1.3% and δ18O: 19.1 to 23.3%). Pyrite from Kofi series Au prospects adjacent to the Falémé batholith have a wide range of δ34S values (–4.6 to 14.2%), similar to pyrite from the Karakaene Ndi skarn (2.8 to 11.9%), whereas δ34S values of pyrite and arsenopyrite from the Loulo deposits are consistently >6%. Comparison of the C and O isotope data with water-rock reaction models indicates the Loulo Au deposits formed primarily through unmixing of an aqueous carbonic fluid derived from the devolatilization of sedimentary rocks with an organic carbon component. Isotopic data are permissive of the hypersaline brine that enhanced this phase separation including components derived from both Kofi series evaporite horizons inter-layered with the dolostones and a magmatic-hydrothermal brine. This magmatic-hydrothermal component is particularly apparent in O, C, and S isotope data from the Gara deposit and Au prospects immediately adjacent to the Falémé batholith.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1537-1558
    Number of pages22
    JournalEconomic Geology
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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