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Thermochronology of the Cornubian batholith in southwest England: Implications for pluton emplacement and protracted hydrothermal mineralization

January 1, 1993

The metalliferous ore deposits of southwest England are associated with biotite-muscovite granites that intruded upper Paleozoic sediments and volcanic rocks at the end of the Hercynian Orogeny. The hydrothermal mineralization can be subdivided into four stages:

  • 1. exoskarns
  • 2. high-temperature tin and tungsten oxide-bearing sheeted greisen bordered veins and Sn-bearing tourmaline veins and breccias
  • 3. polymetallic quartz-tourmaline-chlorite-sulfide-fluorite-bearing fissure veins, which represent the main episode of economic mineralization
  • 4. late-stage, low-temperature polymetallic fluorite veins.

U-Pb dating of monazite and xenotime and 40Ar39Ar">40Ar39Ar dating of muscovite were used to determine emplacement ages and cooling times for individual plutons within the Cornubian batholith, as well as separate intrusive phases within the plutons. In addition, 40Ar39Ar">40Ar39Ar ages from hornblende and secondary muscovite and Sm-Nd isochron ages from fluorite were employed to determine the relationship between pluton emplacement and different stages of mineralization. The U-Pb ages indicate that granite magmatism was protracted from ~300 Ma down to ~275 Ma with no evidence of a major hiatus. There is no systematic relation between the age of a pluton and its location within the batholith. The U-Pb ages for separate granite phases within a single pluton are resolvable and indicate that magma emplacement within individual plutons occurred over periods of as much as 4.5 myrs. Felsic porphyry dike emplacement was coeval with plutonism, but continued to ~270 Ma. The geochronologic data suggest that the Cornubian batholith originated from repeated melting events over 30 myrs and was formed by a series of small coalescing granitic bodies. Cooling rates of the main plutons are unrelated to emplacement age, but decrease from the southwest to the northeast from ~210°C myr−1 to ~60°C myr−1 with a mean of 100°C myr−1. These slow cooling rates appear to reflect the addition of heat from multiple intrusive episodes. The mineralization history is distinct for each pluton and ranges from coeval with, to up to 40 myrs younger than the cooling age for the host pluton. Stage 2 mineralization is broadly synchronous with the emplacement of granite magmas, is dominated by fluids expelled during crystallization, and may be repeated by the emplacement of younger magmas within the same pluton. Sm-Nd isochrons for fluorite from stage 3 polymetallic mineralization give ages of 259 ± 7, 266 ± 3 and 267 ± 12 Ma, postdating stage 2 mineralization by up to 25 myrs within the same deposit. The similarity in age of the main polymetallic mineralization hosted by the oldest and youngest plutons, suggests that this stage of mineralization is unlikely to be related to hydrothermal circulation driven by the emplacement and cooling of the host granite. The mineralization is more likely the product of regional hydrothermal circulation driven by heat from the emplacement and crystallization of younger buried pulses of magma.

Publication Year 1993
Title Thermochronology of the Cornubian batholith in southwest England: Implications for pluton emplacement and protracted hydrothermal mineralization
DOI 10.1016/0016-7037(93)90115-D
Authors J.T. Chesley, A. N. Halliday, L. W. Snee, K. Mezger, T.J. Shepherd, R.C. Scrivener
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Index ID 70018375
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse