Relationship Between Porphyry Systems, Crustal Preservation Levels, and Amount of Exploration in Magmatic Belts of the Central Tethys Region
Published:January 01, 2016
Lukas Zürcher, Jane M. Hammarstrom, John C. Mars, Stephen D. Ludington, Michael L. Zientek, 2016. "Relationship Between Porphyry Systems, Crustal Preservation Levels, and Amount of Exploration in Magmatic Belts of the Central Tethys Region", Tectonics and Metallogeny of the Tethyan Orogenic Belt, Jeremy P. Richards
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Tectonic, geologic, geochemical, geochronologic, and ore deposit data from the U.S. Geological Survey-led assessment of 26 porphyry belts identified in the central Tethys region of Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, western Pakistan, and southern Afghanistan relate porphyry mineralization to the tectonomagmatic evolution of the region and associated subduction and postsubduction processes. However, uplift, erosion, subsidence, and burial of porphyry systems, as well as post-mineral deformation, also played an essential role in shaping the observed metallogenic patterns.
We present a methodology that systematically evaluates the relationship between the level of erosion, the extent of cover, and the number of known porphyry occurrences in porphyry belts. Porphyry belts that exhibit coeval volcanic-to-plutonic rock aerial ratios between 33 and 66 and limited cover contain numerous identified porphyry occurrences. These belts are relatively well explored because porphyry systems are not eroded or buried. Porphyry belts with volcanic-to-plutonic ratios that are greater than 66, but are modestly covered, contain fewer identified porphyry occurrences. Current exploration in these belts is increasingly identifying porphyry systems under associated epithermal deposits. Porphyry belts that show volcanic-to-plutonic ratios that are greater than 66, but are extensively covered, contain few identified porphyry occurrences. These belts have not been extensively explored but have potential for discoveries under cover. Deformed porphyry belts exhibit variable volcanic-to-plutonic ratios that are typically below 33, but can be as high as 60. Commonly, these deformed belts are extensively covered. Exploration efforts for porphyry deposits in these variably exhumed belts have been limited.
Exploration has resulted in the identification of 62.7 million tonnes (Mt) of copper, 2.0 Mt of molybdenum, and 4.200 t of gold in the 45 porphyry deposits contained in the 26 porphyry belts of the region: (1) 54.7 Mt of copper (87% of total), 1.74 Mt of molybdenum (87%), and 3,370 t of gold (80%) occur in the 25 deposits of the four porphyry belts that exhibit coeval volcanic-to-plutonic ratios between 33 and 66 and limited cover; (2) 5.44 Mt of copper (9%), 0.148 Mt of molybdenum (7%), and 581 t of gold (14%) are contained in the 11 deposits of the 11 porphyry belts that display volcanic-to-plutonic ratios greater than 66 and modest cover; (3) 2.08 Mt of copper (3%), 0.110 Mt of molybdenum (6%), and 244 t of gold (6%) occur in the seven deposits of the three porphyry belts that have volcanic-to-plutonic ratios that are greater than 66 and extensive cover; and (4) 0.388 Mt of copper (1%), 0.006 Mt of molybdenum (<<1%), and 6 t of gold (<<1%) are contained in the two deposits of the eight deformed and covered porphyry belts with variable but typically low volcanic-to-plutonic ratios.
The central Tethys region is receiving considerable exploration attention. It hosts the Kadjaran (4.6 Mt Cu), Sungun (5.1 Mt Cu), Sar Cheshmeh (8.9 Mt Cu), and Reko Diq (23.0 Mt Cu) world-class porphyry deposits. Continued exploration for porphyry deposits in the region will likely lead to new discoveries in known porphyry belts, particularly under cover and below high- and intermediate-sulfidation epithermal systems.
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Tectonics and Metallogeny of the Tethyan Orogenic Belt
The Tethyan orogenic belt stretches from the Alps, through the Carpathians and Balkans, Taurides and Caucasus, Zagros, Makran, and Himalayas, to Indochina and into the southwest Pacific Ocean. It represents a complete Wilson Cycle, from opening and closure of the Paleotethys Ocean in the mid-Paleozoic to the Late Triassic, opening of the Neotethys Ocean in the Permian-Early Triassic, and its progressive closure throughout the late Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras. The current state of the orogen includes all stages of convergence from active subduction beneath the Makran and eastern Mediterranean, through advanced continental collision in the Caucasus/Taurides and Zagros, to syn- to postcollisional readjustment in the Carpathians, Balkans, Himalayas, and Indochina (Richards, 2015).
The region has been the focus of significant recent attention from geologists interested both in its tectonic evolution and metallogeny, made possible by increased accessibility to many of the geographic sections of the orogen. Key breakthroughs in understanding its tectonic history have come through improved geochronological techniques and expansion of the database of samples and events dated, combined with more accurate paleogeographic and tectonic models. In parallel, an improved understanding of the subtle relationships between tectonomagmatic and metallogenic processes have refined interpretations that were once based on simplistic assumptions (e.g., that porphyry deposits only form above active subduction zones). Indeed, economic geologists have been among the key drivers of these advances by demanding more accurate and predictive tectonomagmatic models for ore formation that can reliably inform mineral exploration.
Consequently, the Tethyan orogen is now understood to be the best preserved global example of a collisional orogen, where all stages of convergence can be observed in real or recent geological time, and the detailed relationships to ore formation, commonly reflecting tectonic changes measured on submillion-year timescales, can be accurately documented and modeled.
In this volume, we present a selection of papers that showcase this advancement in knowledge, with examples from Eastern Europe to South Asia.Beginning in the Balkans, Knaak et al. (2016) describe the variety of mineral deposits that occur in the emergent worldclass Timok region of eastern Serbia. The origin of the Late Cretaceous Timok Magmatic Complex remains debated, but the authors propose that arc magmatism was focused by dextral transtensional structures, followed by complex structural rearrangement in the Cenozoic. Porphyry Cu-Au deposits, polymetallic replacement deposits, and sedimentary rockhosted Au deposits occur in close spatial, and possibly genetic, relationship to the Late Cretaceous arc rocks. A key contribution of this study is the detailed reconstruction of later Cenozoic fault movements that led to structural dislocation and oroclinal bending, complicating geologic and metallogenic correlations in the region.
- Commonwealth of Independent States
- copper ores
- gold ores
- igneous rocks
- Indian Peninsula
- Lut Desert
- metal ores
- Middle East
- mineral deposits, genesis
- mineral exploration
- molybdenum ores
- plate tectonics
- plutonic rocks
- porphyry copper
- Sanandaj-Sirjan Zone
- volcanic rocks
- western Pakistan
- Sungun Deposit
- Sar Cheshmeh Deposit
- Reko Diq Deposit
- Somkheto-Karabagh Belt
- Kadjaran Deposit