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Geochronology and mapping constraints on the time-space evolution of the igneous and hydrothermal systems in the Taurus Cu-Mo district, eastern Alaska

June 1, 2023

The Taurus porphyry Cu-Mo district contains four mineralized porphyry centers in the eastern interior of Alaska. All four centers were emplaced during a magmatic episode that spanned from ca. 72 to 67 Ma, with seven distinct igneous suites. Each igneous suite resulted in hydrothermal alteration and mineralization, with younger pulses overprinting older pulses. Each magmatic-hydrothermal system is not present at all four mineralized centers. Apart from the Dennison occurrence, each mineralized center records pulses of repeated intermediate-silicic magmatism and associated alteration and mineralization.

Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry U-Pb zircon crystallization ages indicate that an early quartz porphyry dike swarm ranges in age from ca. 71 to 70 Ma and is associated with potassic, sericitic, and propylitic alteration. Quartz latite intrusions were emplaced at ca. 69 Ma and exhibit early sodiccalcic alteration overprinted by potassic, sericitic, and propylitic alteration. The Taurus monzonite suite is cut by quartz latite but yielded an ca. 70 Ma emplacement age and exhibits the largest footprint of potassic and sericitic alteration. Feldspar porphyry dikes were emplaced ca. 69 Ma and have significant tourmaline-bearing potassic and sericitic alteration. This suite was followed by development of an igneous breccia with a monzonitic igneous matrix. Sodic-calcic alteration was associated with the igneous brecciation. A small stock of monzonite was emplaced at ca. 68 Ma causing locally pervasive sericite-tourmaline-pyrite alteration. The youngest suite of magmatism dated in the district is a series of granodiorite porphyry dikes with weak sodic-calcic and propylitic alteration that truncates earlier alteration assemblages.

Mineralization in the district consists of chalcopyrite and molybdenite associated with sugary quartz veins with potassium feldspar and biotite alteration envelopes (A veins). Less common banded quartz-molybdenite veins (B veins) occur with potassium feldspar envelopes. Gold occurs throughout the district and is strongly correlated with copper grade. Sericitic alteration contains lower copper contents and is predominantly associated with quartz-pyrite veins with sericite envelopes (D veins). Pyrrhotite and local arsenopyrite are present in sericitic assemblages. Pyrrhotite also occurs as inclusions in pyrite within D veins.

Magmas across the district exhibit oxidized characteristics, evidenced by the presence of abundant magnetite, rare titanite, and elevated Eu/Eu* and Ce/Ce* in zircon. Zircon Th/U and Yb/Gd compositions suggest a fractionation path controlled by apatite, titanite, and hornblende. Zircon rare earth element ratios and trace element data indicate two distinct batches of magma evolved from mafic parental compositions to monzonite and granodioritic compositions via fractional crystallization. In the early pulse of magma (ca. 72–69 Ma), fractional crystallization was key to ore formation. Earlier, better mineralized suites evolve to less negative Eu anomalies (Eu/Eu* > 0.7), indicating more oxidized and higher-water-pressure conditions evidenced by the suppression of plagioclase crystallization, compared to later, more poorly mineralized suites.

The temporal and spatial evolution of the district was determined from mapping and U-Pb and Re-Os geochronology. Mapping of igneous and hydrothermal assemblages indicates that the locus of the intrusive suites and hydrothermal systems shifted spatially over time, based on the presence of high-temperature (K-silicate–dominant) alteration, which is coincident with the highest Cu and Au grades. The earliest hydrothermal system was centered at Bluff and East Taurus and transitioned to West Taurus during emplacement of the second magmatic suite. Emplacement of the third magmatic suite was centered back at East Taurus, and the fourth and fifth suites were centered at West Taurus. The latest suites were widespread without a core of high-temperature alteration marking a central locus. East Taurus contains the overlap of six of the seven magmatic and hydrothermal suites and has the highest intersected grades and tonnages in the district. The Bluff and Dennison occurrences exhibit fewer igneous suites and hydrothermal assemblages with weak mineralization. Sodic-calcic alteration, common on the deep and distal flanks of porphyry systems, is only present at West Taurus and is indicative of a localized source of high-salinity nonmagmatic fluids.

Publication Year 2023
Title Geochronology and mapping constraints on the time-space evolution of the igneous and hydrothermal systems in the Taurus Cu-Mo district, eastern Alaska
DOI 10.5382/econgeo.4999
Authors Douglas C. Kreiner, Christopher Holm-Denoma, Laura Pianowski, Zachary Flood, David J. Stevenson, Garth E. Graham, Jorge A. Vazquez, Robert A Creaser
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Economic Geology
Index ID 70243075
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geology Minerals; Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center