Cortesia del Gobierno de BRITISH COLUMBIA. Ministerio de Enegia y Minas



Paleoplacer deposits; paleochannel deposits; fluvial and alluvial placers.


: Mainly Au and PGE {also Cu, Ag, garnet, cassiterite, rutile, diamond and other gems: corundum (rubies, sapphires), tourmaline, topaz, beryl (emeralds), spinel; zircon, kyanite, staurolite, chromite, magnetite, ilmenite, barite, cinnabar}. Most of the minerals listed in brackets are recovered as byproducts.

EXAMPLES (British Columbia and Canada/International)

:Williams Creek (Au, 093H 119), Bullion (Au, 093A 025), Lightning Creek (Au, 093H 012), Otter Creek (Au, 104N 032), Spruce Creek (Au, 104N 034); Chaudière Valley (Au, Québec, Canada), Livingstone Creek (Au, Yukon, Canada), Valdez Creek (Au, Alaska, USA), Ballarat (Au, Victoria, Australia), Bodaibo River (Au, Lena Basin, Russia), Gibsonville (Sn, New South Wales, Australia), Ringarooma (Sn , Tasmania, Australia).



Detrital gold, platinum group elements and other heavy minerals occurring in buried valleys (typically with at least several metres of overlying barren material, usually till, clay or volcanic rocks), mainly as channel-lag and gravel-bar deposits. See description of surficial placers (C01) for general information about alluvial placer deposits.


Coarse-grained, paleochannel placer Au deposits occur mainly in Cenozoic and Mesozoic accretionary orogenic belts and volcanic arcs, commonly along major faults that may also control paleodrainage patterns. PGE-bearing deposits commonly associated with accreted and obducted oceanic terranes. Fine-grained paleoplacers also may occur in stable tectonic settings (shield or platformal environments) where reworking of clastic material has proceeded for long periods of time.


Mainly incised paleochannels in mountainous areas including: high-gradient (generally >0.05, less commonly >0.1), narrow bedrock-floored valleys (paleogulches); high-level, abandoned tributary valleys with intermediate gradients (typically 0.01 to 0.1); large, buried trunk valleys (on the order of 100 m deep, a few hundred metres wide and >1 km long) with low channel gradients (generally <0.02 in mountainous reaches and <0.001 in plateau areas); channels buried in modern alluvial valleys with gradients similar to the modern streams. The first two settings are dominated by high-energy, low-sinuosity, single-channel, coarse-grained autochthonous placer deposits, whereas the latter two are characterized by autochthonous and allochthonous placers deposited in wandering gravel-bed river, braided stream and alluvial fan environments. In most paleochannels, coarse-grained placer concentrations occur mainly along channel floors or along other erosional surfaces such as at the base of cut-and-fill sequences; in meandering stream environments finer grained placers also occur along point bar margins and in other areas of slack water.


Tertiary and Pleistocene. Older paleoplacers (excepting the Proterozoic Witwatersrand placers) are rare, due to poor long-term preservation of deposits in high-relief, subaerial environments. Pleistocene paleoplacer deposits in British Columbia generally predate at least the last glaciation.


Coarse (pebble to boulder), rounded gravels (or conglomerate), commonly with sandy interbeds or lenses. Gravels usually imbricated, clast supported, open work or with a sandy matrix, and typically with abundant resistant rock types (quartzite, vein quartz, chert, basalt, granite) and minor, less resistant, lithologies (shale, siltstone, schist, etc.). Au placers are commonly associated with rock types hosting epithermal or mesothermal vein deposits. PGE placers occur with ultramafic hostrocks. Paleoplacers can be buried under a variety of materials, including glacial till, glaciolacustrine silts and clays, glaciofluvial sands and gravels, marine sediments and basalt flows.


Highly variable and laterally discontinuous; paystreaks typically thin (< 2 m), lens shaped and tapering in the direction of paleoflow; usually interbedded with barren sequences.


Typically well rounded, flattened flakes or plates of low sphericity; coarse, more spherical nuggets common in high-gradient channels; fine (flour) gold common in distal stream reaches; evidence of primary crystal structure very rare.


(principal and subordinate): Au nuggets, flakes and grains and PGE minerals, (Cu, Ag, and various industrial minerals and gemstones).


Quartz, pyrite and other sulphides and in many deposits subeconomic concentrations of various heavy minerals, especially magnetite and ilmenite.


Fe and Mn oxide precipitates common. Clay alteration of unstable clasts and matrix in some deposits.


In fluvial settings, placer concentrations occur at channel irregularities, in bedrock depressions and below natural riffles created by fractures, joints, cleavage, faults, foliation or bedding planes that dip steeply and are oriented perpendicular or oblique to stream flow. Coarse- grained placer concentrations occur as lag concentrations where there is a high likelihood of sediment reworking or flow separation such as at the base of channel scours, around gravel bars, boulders or other bedrock irregularities, at channel confluences, in the lee of islands and downstream of sharp meanders. Basal gravels over bedrock typically contain the highest placer concentrations. Fine-grained placer concentrations occur where channel gradients abruptly decrease or stream velocities lessen, such as at sites of channel divergence and along point bar margins. Gold in alluvial fan placers is found in debris- flow sediments and in interstratified gravel, sand and silt. Colluvial placers are best developed on steeper slopes, generally over a weathered surface and near primary lode sources. Economic gold concentrations in glaciofluvial deposits occur mainly along erosional unconformities within otherwise aggradational sequences and typically derive their gold from older placer deposits.


Dominant controls on the geographic distribution of ore include the location of paleodrainage channels, proximity to bedrock sources, and paleorelief. Paleochannels are locally controlled by faults and less resistant rock units. Stratigraphically, placers accumulate mainly at the base of erosional successions along unconformities overlying bedrock or resistant sediments such as basal tills or glaciolacustrine clays. Overlying bedded gravel sequences generally contain less placer minerals and reflect bar sedimentation during aggradational phases. Sedimentologic factors controlling placer accumulations are discussed in Profile C01 (Surficial Placers).


For an explanation of formation of alluvial placers see surficial placers (C01). Placer deposits are buried when base level rises or channel abandonment occurs. Factors inducing these changes include glaciation, volcanism, stream capture and cutoff, or rising sea level.


Paleochannel placer deposits are associated with alluvial fan and fan-delta paleoplacer deposits in some areas (see comments below). Autochthonous fluvial and alluvial placers commonly derive from hydrothermal vein deposits. PGE placers are associated with Alaskan-type ultramafics.


Alluvial fan and fan delta paleoplacer sequences comprise a distinct subtype of buried placer deposits. They occur in relatively unconfined depositional settings compared to paleochannel placer deposits and typically are dominated by massive or graded, poorly sorted gravels and sands, locally with interbedded diamicton. They are generally lower grade and larger volume than fluvial deposits but they contain relatively uniform placer concentrations. Paleofan deposits are mainly local in origin as indicated by high clast angularity and local derivation. Placer minerals occur in both poorly sorted debris-flow sediments and interstratified fluvial gravels and sands. Concentrations are commonly highest at sites of subsequent fluvial degradation.



Anomalous concentrations of Au, Ag, Hg, As, Cu, Fe, Mn, Ti or Cr in stream sediments. Au fineness (relative Ag content) and trace element geochemistry (Hg, Cu) of Au particles can be used to relate placer and lode sources.


Shallow seismic refraction and reflection techniques are useful for delineating paleochannel geometry and depth to bedrock. Electromagnetic, induced polarization, resistivity and magnetometer surveys are locally useful. Geophysical logging of drill holes with apparent conductivity, naturally occurring gamma radiation and magnetic susceptibility tools can supplement stratigraphic data.


: Exploration should focus on sites of natural overburden removal, such as along glacial meltwater channels, and areas underlain by Tertiary fluvial deposits. Buried placers are commonly preserved below glacial lake sediments, on the lee-side of bedrock highs where glacial erosion was minimal and along narrow valleys oriented transversely to the regional ice-flow direction. Airphoto interpretation and satellite imagery data can aid exploration for buried valley placers. Concentrations of magnetite, hematite, pyrite, ilmenite, chromite, garnet, zircon, rutile and other heavy minerals can be used to indicate placer potential.

ECONOMIC FACTORS regrese arriba


Placer concentrations in fluvial deposits are highly variable both within and between individual deposits. In paleochannel gold placers, grades of 0.5 to 5 g/m3 Au are typical, although grades as high as 75 g/m3 Au are reported. The values, however, do not include overburden dilution factors which can reduce grades tenfold or more. Deposit sizes are also highly variable, ranging from 1000 t to 10 Mt.


The main economic limitation to locating, evaluating and mining paleochannel placer deposits is the thick overburden which results in high stripping ratios. Over-consolidation of tills and other sediments due to glaciation makes overburden stripping difficult and is a major limitation inhibiting exploitation of these buried deposits.


Placer gold deposits account for more than two-thirds of the world's gold reserves and about 25% of known total production in British Columbia. Buried- channel placers have been under developed in British Columbia and other countries because of difficulties in locating deposits and high overburden to ore stripping ratios.

REFERENCES regrese arriba

  • Boyle, R.W. (1979): The Geochemistry of Gold and its Deposits; Geological Survey of Canada, Bulletin 280, 584 pages.

  • Giusti, L. (1986): The Morphology, Mineralogy and Behavior of "Fine-grained" Gold from Placer Deposits of Alberta, Sampling and Implications for Mineral Exploration; Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, Volume 23, Number 11, pages 1662-1672

  • Johnston, W. A. and Uglow, W. L. (1926): Placer and Vein Gold Deposits of Barkerville, Cariboo District, British Columbia; Geological Survey of Canada, Memoir 149, 246 pages.

  • Kartashov, I.P. (1971): Geological Features of Alluvial Placers; Economic Geology, Volume 66, pages 879 - 885.

  • Levson, V. M. (1992): The Sedimentology of Pleistocene Deposits Associated with Placer Gold Bearing Gravels in the Livingstone Creek Area, Yukon Territory; in Yukon Geology - Volume 3, Bremner, T., Editor, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Yukon Exploration and Geological Services Division, Whitehorse, pages 99-132.

  • Levson, V. M. and Giles, T.R. (1993): Geology of Tertiary and Quaternary Gold-Bearing Placers in the Cariboo Region, British Columbia; B. C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, Bulletin 89, 202 pages.

  • Levson, V.M. and Blyth, H. (1994): Applications of Quaternary Geology to the Study of Glacial Placer Deposits; A Case Study of the Otter Creek Paleoplacer, British Columbia; Quaternary International, Volume 20, pages 93-105.

  • Levson, V.M. and Morison, S.R. (in press): Geology of Placer Deposits in Glaciated Environments; in Glacial Environments - Processes, Sediments and Landforms, Menzies, J., Editor, Pergamon Press, Oxford, U.K., 44 pages.

  • Minter, W.E.L. (1991): Ancient Placer Gold Deposits; in Gold Metallogeny and Exploration, Foster, R.P., Editor, Blackie, pages 283-308

  • Morison, S.R. (1989): Placer Deposits in Canada. in Quaternary Geology of Canada and Greenland, R.J. Fulton, Editor, Geological Survey of Canada, Geology of Canada, Number 1, pages 687-694.

  • Reger, R.D. and Bundtzen, T.K. (1990): Multiple Glaciation and Gold-placer Formation, Valdez Creek Valley, Western Clearwater Mountains, Alaska; Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Professional Report 107, 29 pages.

  • Smith, N.D. and Minter, W.E.L. (1980): Sedimentologic Controls of Gold and Uranium in Two Witwatersrand Paleoplacers; Economic Geology, Volume 75, pages 1-14.

  • Shilts, W.W. and Smith, S.L. (1986): Stratigraphy of Placer Gold Deposits; Overburden Drilling in Chaudière Valley, Quebec; Geological Survey of Canada, Paper 86-1A, pages 703-712.

  • Cortesia del Gobierno de BRITISH COLUMBIA. Ministerio de Enegia y Minas
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