Lihir, Ladolam

Papua New Guinea

Main commodities: Au
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The Ladolam gold mine lies within the Luise Caldera, located on the eastern side of the north-south elongated, 20 x 12 km, Lihir Island within the Tabar-Lihir-Feni-Tanga chain of islands northeast of New Ireland (Location: 152°38'E, 3°08'S.

Lihir is a major bulk gold deposit with mineralisation represented by an earlier un-economic porphyry stage, and a later, overprinting low sulphidation advanced argillic phase that accompanied the introduction of the bulk of the gold mineralisation. The three main orebodies, Minifie, Lienitz and Kapit (the latter two connected by the Link zone) are located within a generally north-south elongated area inside the breached 5.5 x 3.5 km Luise Caldera on the east coast of Lihir Island. All fall within a 1.5 to 2 km radius of the centre of the caldera. Minifie has plan dimensions of the order of 700 x 400 m with mineralisation extending from 50 m above to 150 m below sea level. Lienitz is 600 x 300 m in plan and is mineralised from 140 m above to 250 m below sea level, although the bulk of the ore is from sea level to 200 m below.

Lihir Island is one of a series of four volcanic island groups which rise from a submarine platform and form a chain roughly parallel to and 50 km to the north-east of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. This chain is also parallel to and 100 km south-west of the Kilinailau Trench where the Pacific plate subducted below the Melanesian Arc which is peripheral to the Australian Plate until the Mid Miocene. The magmatic arc of the Tabar-Lihir-Feni-Tanga chain of islands however, is apparently related to subduction below the New Britain Trench to the south, exploiting a pre-existing crustal weakness from the earlier subduction, and/or a transform fault associated with extension on the Manus Spreading Centre.

The 3 to 1 Ma Luise Caldera occupies the youngest of several Miocene to Holocene alkaline volcanoes developed on the island. The oldest rocks on the island comprise 350 m of Pliocene to Miocene mafic lavas and volcaniclastics of the Londolovit Block on the northern tip, while a NE-SW elongated, unconformably overlying and partly fault bounded block of Pliocene to Pleistocene mafic lavas, agglomerates and lahars around 500 m thick, the Wurtol Wedge adjoins, the Londolovit Block and stretches across the island to the west coast. The Londolovit Block and Wurtol Wedge probably represent portions of a deeply eroded Late Miocene to Pliocene volcano. Sub-economic gold with associated potassic, phyllic and argillic alteration is hosted by altered intermediate volcanics and intrusives. The southern part of the island is occupied by the Pliocene to Pleistocene Kinami Volcano lavas, pyroclastics, breccias and derivative epiclastics. This volcano has associated phyllic and argillic alteration, which grades into potassic zones at depth, which in turn pass out into propylitic zones. Low grade gold accompanies the phyllic alteration. The Pleistocene Huniho Volcano, which has a number of satellite cones and craters makes up the north-western segment of the island with tephras and lahars overlying mafic lavas. The late 5.5 x 3.5 km Luise Caldera is the remnants of a volcanic edifice on the central east coast, north of the Kinamo volcano and east of the Wurtol Wedge. The associated volcanics include trachy-basaltic lavas, pyroclastics and breccias. All three of the remnant volcanic centres have undergone some form of seaward collapse, particularly the most recent, the Luise volcano. Raised coral reefs fringe most of the island, but are absent in Luise Harbour, suggesting they predate the caldera flooding event.

Volcanic rocks predominate in the upper parts of the ore zones of the Luise Caldera, and the margins of the system, and are underlain by intrusives. The host volcanic sequence occupies most of the floor of the Luise Caldera and comprises intermediate (latitic, andesitic and trachytic) lavas, tuffs and volcanic breccias. These extrusives are intruded by a series of fine to medium grained, quartz poor but silica saturated monzonitic to monzodioritic porphyries ranging from pyroxene microdiorite to biotite syenite and some andesite porphyry.

Intrusion-related potassic alteration occurred in the period 0.917 to 0.342 Ma, while the epithermal gold mineralisation is dated at 0.336 Ma, possibly continuing to 0.1 Ma, although the geothermal system is presently active. While the Luise Caldera trends elongate NNE, it is cut by north-south structures associated with the deep fractures that are interpreted to localise the magmatism of Lihir Island. NW-trending fractures are also evident and host the NE-dipping Minifie mineralisation. The Luise volcano is interpreted to have collapsed sideways at about 0.34 Ma. NE-dipping listric-style faults are interpreted to have developed within the remaining underlying part of the edifice. This failure removed about 1 km from above an active porphyry Cu-Au deposit. In doing so, it is believed to have removed the confining pressure and allowed epithermal fluids to escape up the listric faults produced during the collapse, and as such initiated development of the epithermal mineralisation.

Mineralisation is coincident with a NNE trending zone of hydrothermally altered volcanics and breccias intruded at depth by porphyries. Three stages of alteration have been identified,
i). an early porphyry style accompanied by low grade Cu-Au-Mo mineralisation at depth, with a potassic core (mostly phlogopitic biotite-anhydrite with lesser orthoclase, magnetite with pyrite, chalcopyrite and molybdenite) and a peripheral propylitic phase (chlorite ±amphibole ±albite ±epidote ±calcite ±magnetite);
ii). A transitional zone, which forms the bulk of the ore at Minifie, characterised by pervasive adularia ±illite and fine grained, refractory auriferous pyrite within extensive shallow hydrothermal breccias located above biotite altered porphyritic stocks, and grading abruptly downward into sub-economic anhydrite-K feldspar ±pyrite alteration of the porphyry system; and
iii). a younger, overprinting and shallower low sulphidation epithermal style as in the Lienetz area, comprising advanced argillic (alunite ±opaline silica ±kaolinite ±sulphur), argillic (kaolinite ±smectite ±illite) and phyllic (illite ±K-feldspar ±silica). Alteration generally forms a horizontal layering, with porphyry style potassic and propylitic assemblages at depth, grading up through phyllic to epithermal argillic and advanced argillic phases nearer the surface.

Alunite and opal fill veins and stockworks near the surface, grade to quartz and adularia at intermediate depths, underlain by anhydrite and carbonate. Sulphides and gold mineralisation generally mimic the horizontal alteration pattern, although some follows steep 'feeder' fractures. The horizontal zonation represents a surface oxidation regime, related to mixing with ground water, passing down progressively into argillaceous altered and silica clay, through to a boiling layer and then the anhydrite sealed zone. Grades are best from the silica-clay to the boiling zones. Gold is predominantly fine grained and contained within pyrite and marcasite. The overall sulphide or reactive sulphur content averages 6%. Geothermal activity is still taking place.

The total Identified Mineral Resource at January 2004 (based on a 1.5 g/t Au cut-off) was 442.5 Mt @ 3.14 g/t Au for 1390 tonnes (44.7 Moz) of contained gold.   Proved + probable reserves totalled 163.5 Mt @ 3.88 g/t Au for 635 tonnes (20.7 Moz) of contained gold.

The total Measured + Indicated + Inferred Mineral Resource at August 2011 (Newcrest Mining website, 2012) was 830 Mt @ 2.1 g/t Au for 1745 tonnes (56 Moz) of contained gold.   Proved + Probable Reserves (a subset of the resources) totalled 400 Mt @ 2.4 g/t Au for 960 tonnes (31 Moz) of contained gold. The Lihir operation is owned by Newcrest Mining Limited.

The most recent source geological information used to prepare this summary was dated: 1999.    
This description is a summary from published sources, the chief of which are listed below.
© Copyright Porter GeoConsultancy Pty Ltd.   Unauthorised copying, reproduction, storage or dissemination prohibited.


  References & Additional Information
   Selected References:
Blackwell J L, Cooke D R, McPhie J and Simpson K A,  2014 - Lithofacies Associations and Evolution of the Volcanic Host Succession to the Minifie Ore Zone: Ladolam Gold Deposit, Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea : in    Econ. Geol.   v.109 pp. 1137-1160
Carman G D  2002 - Factors Contributing to the Formation of the Giant Ladolam Gold Deposit, Lihir Island, PNG: in   Conference Proceedings, AusIMM Conference 2002, Auckland, New Zealand, 1-4 September AusIMM, Melbourne    pp 185-189
Davies R M, Ballantyne G H  1992 - Geology of the Ladolam gold deposit, Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea: in   Epithermal Gold in Asia and the Pacific, Mineral Concentrations and Hydrocarbon Accumulations in the ESCAP Region UN Econ & Social Comm to Asia & the Pacific   v6 pp 189-194
Gemmell JB, Sharpe R, Jonasson IR, Herzig PM  2004 - Sulfur Isotope Evidence for Magmatic Contributions to Submarine and Subaerial Gold Mineralization: Conical Seamount and the Ladolam Gold Deposit, Papua New Guinea: in    Econ. Geol.   v99 pp 1711-1725
Kidd R P and Robinson J R  2004 - A review of the Kapit orebody, Lihir Island Group, Papua New Guinea: in   Pacrim 2004 Conference, Hi Tech and World Competitive Mineral Success Stories Around the Pacific Rim, Adelaide, 19-22 September, 2004,  AusIMM, Melbourne,    Proceedings volume, pp. 323-331
Lihir Gold Limited  1995 - Description of the Lihir Project: in   extract from the  Lihir Gold Limited prospectus, 1995    pp 46-59
Moyle A J, Doyle B J, Hoogvliet H and Ware A R,  1991 - The Geology and Mineralisation of the Ladolam Gold Deposit, Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea: in   PNG Geology, Exploration and Mining Conference, Rabaul, June 1991 The AusIMM, Melbourne,    pp. 101-111
Moyle A J, Doyle B J, Hoogvliet H, Ware A R  1990 - Ladolam gold deposit, Lihir Island: in Hughes FE (Ed.), 1990 Geology of the Mineral Deposits of Australia & Papua New Guinea The AusIMM, Melbourne   Mono 14, v2 pp 1793-1805
Muller D and Groves D I  1993 - Direct and indirect associations between potassic igneous rocks, shoshonites and gold-copper deposits : in    Ore Geology Reviews   v8 pp 383-406
Muller D, Kaminski K, Uhlig S, Graupner T, Herzig P M and Hunt S  2002 - The transition from porphyry- to epithermal-style gold mineralization at Ladolam, Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea: a reconnaissance study: in    Mineralium Deposita   v37 pp 61-74
Orogen Minerals Ltd  1996 - Lihir gold project: in   Extracts from  Orogen Minerals Ltd Prospectus, 1996    pp 73-81, 170-186
Petersen S, Herzig P M, Hannington M D, Jonasson I R, Arribas A  2002 - Submarine Gold mineralization near Lihir Island, New Ireland fore-arc, Papua New Guinea: in    Econ. Geol.   v97 pp 1795-1813
Richards, J.P.,  2009 - Postsubduction porphyry Cu-Au and epithermal Au deposits: Products of remelting of subduction-modified lithosphere: in    Geology   v.37, pp. 247-250.
Rutter J, Blackwell J L, Carman G D, Cooke D R, Dala K, Javati N, Johnstone R, Kikiha D, Likia B, McPhie J and O’Sullivan T,  2008 - The Character and Spatial Distribution of Epithermal Gold Mineralisation at the Ladolam Gold Deposit, Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea: in   Pacrim 2008 Conference, 24-26 November 2008, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, The AusIMM, Melbourne,   Extended Abstracts Volume, pp. 433-438
Sykora, S., Cooke, D.R., Meffre, S., Stephanov, A.S., Gardner, K., Scott, R., Selley, D. and Harris, A.C.,  2018 - Evolution of Pyrite Trace Element Compositions from Porphyry-Style and Epithermal Conditions at the Lihir Gold Deposit: Implications for Ore Genesis and Mineral Processing: in    Econ. Geol.   v.113, pp. 193-208.
Sykora, S., Selley, D., Cooke, D.R. and Harris, A.C.,   2018 - The Structure and Significance of Anhydrite-Bearing Vein Arrays, Lienetz Orebody, Lihir Gold Deposit, Papua New Guinea: in    Econ. Geol.   v.113, pp. 237-270.
White, N.C., Leake, M.J., McCaughey, S.N. andd Parris, B.W.,  1995 - Epithermal gold deposits of the southwest Pacific: in    J. of Geochemical Exploration   v.54, pp. 87-136.

Porter GeoConsultancy Pty Ltd (PorterGeo) provides access to this database at no charge.   It is largely based on scientific papers and reports in the public domain, and was current when the sources consulted were published.   While PorterGeo endeavour to ensure the information was accurate at the time of compilation and subsequent updating, PorterGeo takes no responsibility what-so-ever for inaccurate or out of date data, information or interpretations.

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