• The Anatomy of an Alkalic Porphyry Cu-Au System: Geology and Alteration at Northparkes Mines, New South Wales, Australia

      Pacey, A; Wilkinson, JJ; Owens, J; Priest, D; Cooke, DR; Millar, IL (Society of Economic Geologists, 2019-05-01)
      The Late Ordovician-early Silurian (~455–435 Ma) Northparkes system is a group of silica-saturated, alkalic porphyry deposits and prospects that developed within the Macquarie island arc. The system is host to a spectacular and diverse range of rocks and alteration-mineralization textures that facilitate a detailed understanding of its evolution, in particular the nature and controls of porphyry-related propylitic alteration. The first intrusive phase at Northparkes is a pre- to early-mineralization pluton that underlies all the deposits and varies in composition from a biotite quartz monzonite to alkali feldspar granite. Prior to total crystallization, this pluton was intruded by a more primitive quartz monzonite that marks the onset of a fertile fractionation series. Toward its upper levels, the quartz monzonite is porphyritic and locally rich in Cu sulfides. Subsequently, a complex series of synmineralization quartz monzonite porphyries was emplaced. The quartz monzonite porphyry intrusions have a distinct pipe-like morphology and are ubiquitously K-feldspar–altered with a crystal-crowded porphyritic texture. The textures of the quartz monzonite porphyries and common occurrence of porphyry-cemented contact breccias indicate they were forcibly emplaced and of relatively low viscosity. The quartz monzonite porphyries are therefore interpreted as crystal-bearing, silicate melt-aqueous fluid slurries that represent the conduits through which deep-seated magmatic-derived ore fluid was discharged into the shallow crust (1–2 km depth). Each deposit is centered on a multiphase cluster of quartz monzonite porphyry intrusions that drove discrete hydrothermal systems. Initial fluid evolution was similar in all the deposits, with three major alteration facies developed as largely concentric zones around the quartz monzonite porphyry complexes. The innermost zone is host to Cu sulfide ore and dominated by K-feldspar alteration. This transitions outward through a shell of magnetite ± biotite alteration, with pyrite and minor chalcopyrite, to an outer halo of propylitic alteration. Generally, epidote, chlorite, and pyrite are abundant in the most deposit-proximal propylitic zone, with a decrease in the abundance of pyrite, and then epidote, with increasing distance away from deposit centers. Propylitic alteration, particularly within relatively low permeability rocks, is fracture-controlled and a hierarchy of veins is observed. Veins of chlorite-quartz-pyrite ± calcite ± hematite ± epidote ± chalcopyrite (P1) appear to represent the principal fluid conduits. They are surrounded by pervasive and intense alteration halos with a distinct mineralogical zonation from vein-proximal chlorite-sericite (phengite) ± epidote ± pyrite, through hematite-sericite-chlorite ± epidote, ultimately to a vein-distal hematite-albite ± chlorite ± epidote assemblage. These P1 veins are surrounded by regions in which smaller epidote-chlorite ± calcite ± quartz ± pyrite veins (P2) are abundant, again with zoned alteration envelopes: vein-proximal chlorite-sericite (phengite) ± epidote ± pyrite grades out into an epidote-rich zone, which in turn transitions into vein-distal albite-hematite ± chlorite ± epidote. Areas of weakest propylitic alteration, distant from both P1 and P2 veins, are characterized by small epidote-only veinlets (P3) with albite-hematite halos. Mineralogical transitions across the propylitic zone are therefore repeated in the evolution from P1 to P3 veins, as well as in the halos around these veins. It is the overall vein abundance and overlap of associated alteration halos that controls the intensity and appearance of propylitic alteration in most rocks. Such scale invariance and spatial relationships strongly suggest the transition from P1 to P3 veins reflects a broadly decreasing outward flux of (magmatic-derived?) fluid that passed through the fracture network and progressively reacted with country rocks. Further support for this hypothesis comes from crosscutting relationships and Rb-Sr dating of epidote (returning an age of 450 ± 11 Ma), which demonstrate the bulk of propylitic alteration was coeval with mineralization and potassic alteration. Late-stage fluid evolution at each deposit was unique. Much of the E48 orebody, and locally the GRP314 deposit, was overprinted by texturally destructive, white sericite-albite-quartz-alunite ± chlorite alteration. In the E26 deposit and in regions of the GRP314 deposit a series of quartz-anhydrite ± pyrite ± Cu sulfide veins with distinctive, vein-proximal, sericite-dominant alteration halos cuts the primary, deposit-concentric alteration facies. The vein-distal mineralogy of these alteration halos is controlled by their distance from deposit centers, changing from K-feldspar ± biotite in deposit-proximal veins to chlorite ± epidote-albite in depositdistal veins. Late-mineralization quartz monzonite porphyries at E26 and GRP314 also appear to be related to the generation of anhydrite-quartz ± sphalerite veins and a set of quartz-calcite-pyrite-sphalerite ± chalcopyrite ± galena veins. Postmineralization magmatic activity produced relatively primitive and barren monzonite porphyries and younger alkali basalt dikes.
    • The Distribution and Timing of Molybdenite Mineralization at the El Teniente Cu-Mo Porphyry Deposit, Chile

      Spencer, ET; Wilkinson, JJ; Creaser, RA; Seguel, J (2015-03-01)
      The El Teniente Cu-Mo porphyry deposit, Chile, is one of the world’s largest and most complex porphyry ore systems, containing an estimated premining resource of approximately 95 Mt Cu and 2.5 Mt Mo. Although Cu mineralization at the deposit is quite well studied, little work has focused specifically on the distribution and timing of Mo mineralization. Combined grade, vein, and breccia distribution analysis reveals that deposit-wide Mo grades of 0.01 to 0.06 wt % are strongly controlled by the abundance of main mineralization (type 6a) quartz ± molybdenite veins. These show a clear spatial relationship with several felsic-intermediate intrusions and appear to develop outward and upward into Cu-rich (type 6b–7b) quartz-chalcopyrite veins and (type 8) chalcopyrite-anhydrite ± bornite veins with sericitic alteration halos. High-precision Re-Os molybdenite dating reveals that these linked vein types did not develop in a single, deposit-wide evolution, but are diachronous, related to distinct episodes of hydrothermal activity associated with the emplacement of diorite finger porphyries and the composite Teniente Dacite Porphyry. These units acted as effective, short-lived (<100,000 years) conduits for pulses of Mo- and Cu-bearing hydrothermal fluids between 6.3 and 4.6 Ma. The rapid thermal contraction of each system during mineralization led to extensive overprinting of Mo-rich veins by their lower-temperature, Cu-rich equivalents. Separate pulses in magmatic-hydrothermal activity are separated by distinct gaps of up to 300,000 years, during which Mo-mineralizing activity appears to have gone into quiescence. Mo grades exceeding 0.06 wt % correspond to the presence of molybdenite-bearing, late mineralization-stage, tourmaline-cemented (type 9), and anhydrite-carbonate ± gypsum (type 10) veins and breccias. These are abundant at shallow mine levels and show a close spatial relationship with a series of concentric faults associated with the Braden Breccia Pipe. Mineralization in this paragenetic stage is relatively short-lived and occurs in all parts of the deposit between 4.80 and 4.58 Ma. The generally Cu poor nature of the late mineralization stage is attributed to the prior preferential extraction of Cu from the underlying magma chamber in earlier mineralizing events. This led to the late exsolution of oxidized, Mo-rich fluids that may have undergone further enrichment by remobilizing Mo from main mineralization-type veins associated with the Teniente Dacite Porphyry. The formation of the Braden Breccia Pipe is likely to have occurred in a single cataclysmic event at approximately 4.58 Ma, which cut the Mo-rich tourmaline breccias and created a distinct Mo-rich grade halo at shallow mine levels. With the exception of minor mineralization associated with small dacitic dikes at approximately 4.42 Ma, the Braden event marked the termination of Mo deposition.