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Porphyry Cu indicator minerals in till as an exploration tool: Example from the giant Pebble porphyry Cu-Au-Mo deposit, Alaska, USA

January 1, 2011

Porphyry Cu indicator minerals are mineral species in clastic sediments that indicate the presence of mineralization and hydrothermal alteration associated with porphyry Cu and associated skarn deposits. Porphyry Cu indicator minerals recovered from shallow till samples near the giant Pebble Cu-Au-Mo porphyry deposit in SW Alaska, USA, include apatite, andradite garnet, Mn-epidote, visible gold, jarosite, pyrite, and cinnabar. Sulphide minerals other than pyrite are absent from till, most likely due to the oxidation of the till. The distribution of till samples with abundant apatite and cinnabar suggest sources other than the Pebble deposit. With three exceptions, all till samples up-ice of the Pebble deposit contain <10 grains/10kg of garnet (0.25-0.5 mm). Samples in the immediate vicinity of the Pebble deposit contain 10-20 grains, whereas samples with the most grains (>40grains/10kg) are in close proximity to smaller porphyry and skarn occurrences in the region. The distribution of Mn-epidote closely mimics the distribution of garnet in the till samples and further supports the interpretation that these minerals most likely reflect skarns associated with the porphyry deposits. All but two till samples, including those up-ice from the deposit, contain some gold grains. However, tills immediately west and down-ice of Pebble contain more abundant gold grains, and the overall number of grains decreases in the down-ice direction. Furthermore, all samples in the immediate vicinity of Pebble contain more than 65% pristine and modified grains compared to mostly re-shaped grains in distal samples. The pristine gold in till reflects short transport distances and/or liberation of gold during in-situ weathering of transported chalcopyrite grains. Jarosite is also abundant (1-2 500 grains/10kg) in samples adjacent to and up to 7 km down-ice from the deposit. Most jarosite grains are rounded and preliminary Ar/Ar dates suggest the jarosite formed prior to glaciation and it implies that a supergene cap existed over Pebble West. Assuming this interpretation is accurate, it suggests a shallow level of erosion of the Pebble deposit by glacial processes. Overall the results of this study indicate that porphyry Cu indicator minerals in till samples may be useful in the exploration for porphyry deposits in SW Alaska.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Porphyry Cu indicator minerals in till as an exploration tool: Example from the giant Pebble porphyry Cu-Au-Mo deposit, Alaska, USA
DOI 10.1144/1467-7873/10-IM-041
Authors Karen D. Kelley, Robert G. Eppinger, J. Lang, Steven M. Smith, David L. Fey
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis
Index ID 70032616
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center; Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center