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Dzhezkazgan and associated sandstone copper deposits of the Chu-Sarysu basin, Central Kazakhstan

December 31, 2012
Sandstone-hosted copper (sandstone Cu) deposits occur within a 200-km reach of the northern Chu-Sarysu basin of central Kazakhstan (Dzhezkazgan and Zhaman-Aibat deposits, and the Zhilandy group of deposits). The deposits consist of Cu sulfide minerals as intergranular cement and grain replacement in 10 ore-bearing members of sandstone and conglomerate within a 600- to 1,000-m thick Pennsylvanian fluvial red-bed sequence. Copper metal content of the deposits ranges from 22 million metric tons (Mt, Dzehzkazgan) to 0.13Mt (Karashoshak in the Zhilandy group), with average grades of 0.85 to 1.7% Cu and significant values for silver (Ag) and rhenium (Re). Broader zones of iron reduction (bleaching) of sandstones and conglomerates of the red-bed sequence extend over 10 km beyond each of the deposits along E-NE-trending anticlines, which began to form in the Pennsylvanian. The bleached zones and organic residues within them are remnants of ormer petroleum fluid accumulations trapped by these anticlines. Deposit sites along these F1anticlines are localized at and adjacent to the intersections of nearly orthogonal N-NW-trending F2synclines. These structural lows served to guide the flow of dense ore brines across the petroleum-bearing anticlines, resulting in ore sulfide precipitation where the two fluids mixed. The ore brine was sourced either from the overlying Early Permian lacustrine evaporitic basin, whose depocenter occurs between the major deposits, or from underlying Upper Devonian marine evaporites. Sulfur isotopes indicate biologic reduction of sulfate but do not resolve whether the sulfate was contributed from the brine or from the petroleum fluids. New Re-Os age dates of Cu sulfides from the Dzhezkazgan deposit indicate that mineralization took place between 299 to 309 Ma near the Pennsylvanian-Permian age boundary. At the Dzhezkazgan and some Zhilandy deposits, F2fold deformation continued after ore deposition. Copper orebodies in Lower Permian shale near the Zhaman-Aibat deposit indicate that at least some of the mineralization there is younger than at Dzhezkazgan, consistent with the Re-Os age and with differences in their ore Pb isotopes.