Overview of the Yerington Porphyry Copper District: Magmatic to Nonmagmatic Sources of Hydrothermal Fluids, Their Flow Paths, Alteration Affects on Rocks, and Cu-Mo-Fe-Au Ores
John H. Dilles, Marco T. Einaudi, John Proffett, Mark D. Barton, 2000. "Overview of the Yerington Porphyry Copper District: Magmatic to Nonmagmatic Sources of Hydrothermal Fluids, Their Flow Paths, Alteration Affects on Rocks, and Cu-Mo-Fe-Au Ores", Part I. Contrasting Styles of Intrusion-Associated Hydrothermal Systems: Part II. Geology & Gold Deposits of the Getchell Region, John H. Dilles, Mark D. Barton, David A. Johnson, John M. Proffett, Marco T. Einaudi, Elizabeth Jones Crafford
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The Yerington district, Nevada, hosts at least four porphyry copper deposits and several small Fe oxide-copper-gold lodes within a middle Jurassic batholith and its volcanic cover. The contact aureole of the batholith contains early garnet-pyroxene hornfels and endoskarn, later copper-bearing andradite skarn deposits, and latest-stage large Fe oxide-copper-gold replacement deposits. The Jurassic host rocks have been faulted and tilted 60° to 90° W by Cenozoic normal faulting (Proffett, 1977) so that the modern exposures represent cross sections of a complex paleohydrothermal system from the volcanic environment to about 7 km depth.
This paper summarizes field, petrologic, and geochemical data that support the origin of hydrothermal wall-rock alteration and ore deposition due to two different types of fluids. Magmatic brines were derived from the crystallization of the youngest equigranular intrusion of the Yerington batholith, the Luhr Hill granite. Brines separated from the granite and were emplaced upward together with granite porphyry dikes to produce copper-iron sulfdes and associated K silicate alteration in the porphyry copper deposits and copper skarns. In the upper part of the hydrothermal system, magmatic fluids are an important source of acids and sulfur that produced sericitic and advanced argillic alteration.
A second type of ore fluid is brine derived from formation waters trapped in the Triassic-Jurassic sedimentary section intruded by the batholith. These fluids were heated by the batholith and circulated through its crystalline parts. Hornfels and endoskarn were produced along the contact of an early intrusion. Following intrusion of the porphyry dikes, sedimentary brines circulated up to 3 km into the batholith and upon heating produced sodic-calcic alteration there. Ascent of these brines, particularly after the waning of magmatic fluid input, may have caused shallow-level chlorite-dominated alteration in igneous host rocks and Fe oxide-Cu-Au lodes and replacement deposits in the batholith and its contact aureole, respectively.
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Part I. Contrasting Styles of Intrusion-Associated Hydrothermal Systems: Part II. Geology & Gold Deposits of the Getchell Region
Intrusion-related hydrothermal systems represent a large variety of geologic environments that in some cases form large metallic mineral deposits. The deposits examined in this trip represent the spectrum from systems dominated by magmatic fluid (Birch Creek, California and Yerington, Nevada) to those systems in which intrusions serve as heat engines to drive convectively circulating brines derived from sedimentary rocks (Hum-boldt, Nevada). In these examples, nonmagmatic fluids are largely excluded from more deeply emplaced intrusions in a compressive environment, and the hydrothermal composition and ores (e.g., granite W-F, Cu porphyry and skarn) are dictated by the composition of the magma and its mechanism of crystallization and aqueous fluid generation. Magmatic fluids are less important in the shallow crustal ore environment, but apparently contribute to acidic alteration zones located vertically above source intrusions. Using Humboldt as an example, we propose that the Fe oxide Cu-Au ores in the shallow environment require an abundant source of sedimentary brines (typical of evaporitic environments), high fracture permeability (promoted by an exten-sional setting) to allow aqueous fluid flow and dike emplacement, and shallowly emplaced intrusions to serve as heat sources.
IGNEOUS-RELATED hydrothermal systems constitute the most varied type of geologic environment, ranging in tectonic setting from spreading centers to collisional belts, in depth from the surface to the deep crust, and in sources of materials from purely magmatic to largely external. They comprise perhaps the single most important ore-forming environment, yet most igneous systems lack economically significant mineralization. This variety is attributable to igneous factors such as volatile content and its evolution from the intrusion, and to external factors that include depth of emplacement, host rocks, tectonic environment, and structural setting, which control permeability and access of external fluids to the crystallized intrusion and its contact aureole.
This field trip examines three large but markedly different intrusion-centered hydrothermal systems in the western Great Basin of California and Nevada (Fig. 1, Table 1). Each example represents a major group of these systems worldwide. The field emphasis will be on examining mass transfer features—such as mechanisms for igneous emplacement, degassing of magmatic-aqueous fluids, and fracturing and ductile deformation—that allow variation from near-lithostatic to hydrostatic conditions, incursion of nonmagmatic fluids into the high-temperature environment, and hydrothermal alteration, vein deposition, and wall-rock replacement via aqueous fluids. The broader questions of metallogenic provinces and processes will be raised as a context for the specific sites examined.
The overall emphasis of this trip will be on documenting and understanding the dynamics of igneous-related hydrothermal systems.