Using mineral chemistry to aid exploration: a case study from the Resolution porphyry Cu-Mo deposit, Arizona
The giant, high-grade Resolution porphyry Cu-Mo deposit in the Superior district of Arizona is hosted in Proterozoic and Paleozoic basement and in an overlying Cretaceous volcaniclastic breccia and sandstone package. Resolution has a central domain of potassic alteration that extends more than 1 km outboard of the ore zone, overlapping with a propylitic halo characterized by epidote, chlorite, and pyrite that is particularly well developed in the Laramide volcaniclastic rocks and Proterozoic dolerite sills. The potassic and propylitic assemblages were overprinted in the upper parts of the deposit by intense phyllic and advanced argillic alteration. The district was disrupted by Tertiary Basin and Range extension, and the fault block containing Resolution and its Cretaceous host succession was buried under thick mid-Miocene dacitic volcanic cover, obscuring the geologic, geophysical, and geochemical footprint of the deposit.
To test the potential of propylitic mineral chemistry analyses to aid in the detection of concealed porphyry deposits, a blind test was conducted using a suite of epidote-chlorite ± pyrite-altered Laramide volcaniclastic rocks and Proterozoic dolerites collected from the propylitic halo, with samples taken from two domains located to the north and south and above the Resolution ore zone. Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) data of epidote provided indications of deposit fertility and proximity. Competition for chalcophile elements (As, Sb, Pb) between coexisting pyrite and epidote grains led to a subdued As-Sb fertility response in epidote, consistent with epidote collected between 0.7 and 1.5 km from the center of a large porphyry deposit. Temperature-sensitive trace elements in chlorite provided coherent spatial zonation patterns, implying a heat source centered at depth between the two sample clusters, and application of chlorite proximitor calculations based on LA-ICP-MS analyses provided a precisely defined drill target in this location in three dimensions. Drilling of this target would have resulted in the discovery of Resolution, confirming that epidote and chlorite mineral chemistry can potentially add value to porphyry exploration under cover.
Australian Research Council
AMIRA International Ltd
BHP Billiton Ltd
Newcrest Mining Limited
Publication titleEconomic Geology
Department/SchoolSchool of Natural Sciences
PublisherSociety of Economic Geologists, Inc
Place of publicationUnited States
Rights statement©2020 Society of Economic Geologists, Inc.