Contrasting Tectonic Settings and Sulfur Contents of Magmas Associated with Cretaceous Porphyry Cu ± Mo ± Au and Intrusion-Related Iron Oxide Cu-Au Deposits in Northern Chile
Porphyry Cu ± Mo ± Au and iron oxide copper-gold (IOCG) deposits share many similarities (e.g., Fe, Cu, and Au contents), but also have important differences (e.g., the predominance of sulfide minerals in porphyry deposits and iron oxides in IOCG deposits). Genetic comparisons are complicated by the broad definition of IOCG deposits; here we restrict our study to IOCG deposits that are related to igneous intrusive systems. In the Mesozoic Coastal Cordillera of northern Chile, both porphyry and IOCG deposits occur in close spatial and temporal proximity, offering the chance to examine what controls their different modes of formation. From detailed examination of the timing, geochemistry, and tectonic setting of associated igneous rocks, based on new and published data, we find that rocks associated with mid-Cretaceous IOCG deposits (~125–110 Ma) are largely indistinguishable from those associated with slightly earlier (>125 Ma) and later (<110 Ma) porphyry Cu ± Mo ± Au deposits. Magmas related to IOCG deposits were formed during a brief period of back-arc transtension in the mid-Cretaceous and are, on average, somewhat more mafic (dioritic), locally alkaline, and isotopically primitive compared to granodioritic magmas associated with porphyry deposits formed during normal contractional arc tectonics in the later Cretaceous. However, these compositional ranges overlap, and the differences are not clear enough to be diagnostic. We measured the SO 3 content of igneous apatite from selected samples of these rocks to test the hypothesis that the difference in sulfur content of the ore deposits was due to differences in sulfur content of the associated magmas. Early igneous apatite crystals occurring as inclusions in silicate phenocrysts from the Carmen de Andacollo porphyry Cu-Au deposit (Re-Os molybdenite ages of 103.9 ± 0.5 Ma, 103.6 ± 0.5 Ma) are significantly richer in S (0.25 ± 0.17 wt % SO 3 , n = 69) than similar apatite crystals from two IOCG deposits (Candelaria, Casualidad) and a sample of regional mid-Cretaceous igneous rock from near Productora (0.04 ± 0.02 wt % SO 3 , n = 76). Using published partition coefficients for S between apatite and oxidized silicate melt, we semi-quantitatively estimate corresponding magmatic sulfur contents of ~0.02 wt % S in the Carmen de Andacollo magmas versus ~0.001 to 0.005 wt % S in the IOCG-associated magmas. This is an order of magnitude difference, and the opposite of what would be expected if the difference were due to bulk magma composition (sulfur solubility is generally higher in mafic magmas, whereas here the S content is higher in the more felsic porphyries). We conclude that the porphyry-forming magmas indeed had higher S contents than the IOCG-related magmas and suggest that these differences reflect different petrogenetic processes. During normal subduction, magmas derived from the metasomatized mantle wedge are hydrous, moderately oxidized, and S rich, and have the potential to generate S-rich porphyry-type deposits. In contrast, in back-arc extensional settings, upwelling asthenospheric melts carry a weaker subduction signature, including lower S contents. Interaction of these S-poor magmas with previously subduction modified upper plate lithosphere is more likely to give rise to S-poor IOCG deposits.
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