Characteristics and origin of coarse gold in Late Pleistocene sediments of the Cariboo placer mining district, British Columbia, Canada
The Cariboo placer mining district (1000 km 2) sited in the Interior Plateau of central British Columbia, Canada, is the premier placer gold mining district of the Province. Gold is recovered from three Late Pleistocene sedimentary facies: postglacial fluvial gravels (< 10 Ka), Late Wisconsin till (ca. 25-10 Ka), and "older" fluvial gravels (>25 Ka). This study reports the morphology (size, roundness, sphericity) of 1636 gold grains, ranging in size from 0.25 to 17 mm, recovered from 19 placer mines. Older gravels contain the smallest gold grains (mean grani size 1.53 mm), grains of intermediate size occur in till (2.23 mm) and the coarsest gold occurs in postglacial gravels (2.34 mm) with a mean of 1.93 mm for the mining district as a whole. The most common grain shapes are sub-rounded, discoidal (14.73% of the grain population), sub-angular, discoidal (10.88%), and sub-rounded, sub-discoidal (9.59%); the most angular grains occur in postglacial gravels. In-situ growth of coarse, angular grains is indicated by a "composite" grain structure, consisting of aggregates of gold particles welded together by high-grade (Ag = < 2%) filamentous gold; in-situ coarsening may be reliant on organic complexing agents produced below a dense forest cover. An evolutionary sequence of grain form, from angular aggregates to rounded "pumpkin seed" grains, is suggested. Rounded grains commonly show a crystalline structure which may result from the cold hammering of gold during transport; fracturing along crystal boundaries is common. Gold grains may undergo cycles of coarsening, rounding, diagenesis and breakup in response to repeated recycling through Pleistocene sedimentary environments.