Porphyry and epithermal deposits are important sources of base and precious metals. Most actively mined deposits have been exhumed such that ore bodies are relatively close to the surface and are therefore locatable and economic to extract. Identifying and characterizing concealed deposits, particularly more deeply buried porphyry deposits, represents a far greater challenge for mineral exploration, and will become progressively more important as near-surface resources are gradually exhausted over time. We report high-precision 40Ar/39Ar dates for coarsely crystalline alunite that precipitated from magmatic steam in open fractures in Oligocene dacitic volcanic rocks, and a SHRIMP 206Pb/238U zircon date for one of several rhyolite dikes present at Alunite Ridge and Deer Trail Mountain, Utah. Both the magmatic-steam alunite and rhyolite dikes are related to concealed intrusions. The rhyolite dike yielded an age of 30.72 ± 0.36 Ma, which is older than a commonly cited 27.1 Ma age estimate for the Three Creeks Tuff Member of the Bullion Canyon Volcanics that is cut by the dike. 40Ar/39Ar data for samples of magmatic-steam alunite and sericite from six mines and prospects provide evidence for at least two periods of episodic hydrothermal activity at ca. 15.7–15.1 Ma and ca. 14.7–13.8 Ma, with the older and younger pulses of activity recorded at the more eastern and western sites, respectively. These two periods of hydrothermal activity are consistent with previous interpretations that Alunite Ridge and Deer Trail Mountain are underlain by two concealed porphyry stocks. 40Ar/39Ar analyses of individual bands in a sample of massive, centimeter-scale banded vein alunite yield indistinguishable ages with a weighted mean of 13.98 ± 0.12 Ma, consistent with a short-lived (≲250 ka) magmatic event with episodic vapor discharge recurring on short timescales (≲36 ka). 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of magmatic-steam alunite is a valuable tool to constrain the timing and duration of magmatic hydrothermal activity associated with unexposed intrusions and potentially porphyry deposits, and therefore may be useful in exploration.
|Title||40Ar/39Ar geochronology of magmatic-steam alunite from Alunite Ridge and Deer Trail Mountain, Marysvale Volcanic Field, Utah: Timing and duration of miocene hydrothermal activity associated with concealed intrusions|
|Authors||Cameron Mark Mercer, M. Cosca, Albert H. Hofstra, Wayne R. Premo, Robert O. Rye, Gary P. Landis|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center|