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Formation of sedimentary rock-hosted stratiform copper deposits through Earth history

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 05:02 authored by Hitzman, MW, David SelleyDavid Selley, Stuart BullStuart Bull
Sedimentary rock-hosted stratiform copper deposits form by movement of oxidized, copper-bearing fluids across a reduction front that results in the precipitation of copper sulfides. Large-scale production of such oxidized fluids, as well as the formation of mobile hydrocarbons (oil) has probably been common since the formation of the first red beds in the Paleoproterozoic, and deposits of this type occur in rocks from the Paleoproterozoic to the Tertiary. However, supergiant deposits are currently recognized in only three basins: the PSeoproterozoic Kodaro-Udokan basin of Siberia, the Neoproterozoic Katangan basin of south-central Africa, and the Permian Zechstein basin of northern Europe. The paucity of data regarding the Udokan deposit makes understanding this system difficult in terms of Earth history events. Both the Neoproterozoic and the Permian were times of supercontinent breakup with major landmasses at low latitudes. This global tectonic framework favored the formation of failed rifts that subsequently became significant intracratonic basins with basal, synrift red-bed sequences overlain by marine and/or lacustrine sediments and, in some basins located at low latitudes, by thick evaporitic strata. The intracratonic setting of these basins allowed the development of a hydrologically closed basinal architecture in which highly oxidized and saline, moderate-temperature basinal brines were produced that were capable of supplying reduction-controlled sulfide precipitation over very long time periods (tens to hundreds of millions of years). The length of time available for the mineralizing process may be the key factor necessary to form supergiant deposits. However, examination of the absolute ages for the Kupferschiefer (Zechstein basin) and Katangan deposits allows speculation that other factors may also have been important. Both the Neoproterozoic and Permian were times of major glacial events. Glaciation may also be conducive for the formation of supergiant sediment-hosted stratiform copper deposits. Glacial periods correspond to magnesium- and sulfate-rich oceans that could have been responsible for additional sulfur in basinal brines developed during evaporite formation and would then be available during the long mineralization process. © 2010 Society of Economic Geologists, Inc.


Publication title

Economic Geology and The Bulletin of The Society of Economic Geologists








School of Natural Sciences


Economic Geology Publ Co

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Copper ore exploration

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