Abstract

Enigmatic hydrothermal vein/breccia/replacement Cu-Au deposits with magnetite and/or hematite are well-represented in Australian 1850 Ma to 1500 Ma terrains and associated with different-aged synorogenic intrusions in the Tennant Creek Block (ca. 1850 Ma); the Gawler-Curnamona region (1640 Ma to 1590 Ma); and the Cloncurry district (Mount Isa Eastern Fold Belt, 1540 Ma to 1500 Ma with a possible earlier event at ca. 1600 Ma). No deposits are known to be coeval with various 1780 Ma to 1610 Ma anorogenic intrusions. Deposits are hosted by many different rock-types with varying metamorphic grade including granites and various supracrustal rocks. Depth of mineralization varied from many kilometers in semiductile crust (e.g., Cloncurry deposits) to very shallow (e.g., Olympic Dam). Ore deposition near Cloncurry occurred in brittle-ductile shear zones from geochemically variable and complex, CO2-rich, 300°C to 500°C, high salinity fluids with magmatic stable isotopic signatures. Recently published studies of a giant granitoidhosted magnetite vein complex at the Lightning Creek prospect (>1000 Mt magnetite) suggest it is a product of internal differentiation and endogenous Fe and Cu-rich hydrous-carbonic fluid phase generation within a quartz monzodiorite-monzogranite intrusion. Coupled with other field relationships, this points to a possible genetic relationship with intermediate (55 to 65 wt% SiO2) members of an alkaline and partly shoshonitic granitoid supersuite which appears to have both mantle and crustal source components from εNd evidence. In constrast, main-phase mineralization at Olympic Dam in the Gawler Craton is distinguished by hematite-phyllosilicate alteration and chalcopyrite-bornite-chalcocite zoning, reflecting fluid mixing in a high level (<250°C) system with a probable large component of meteoric water. Early high-temperature parageneses and fluid inclusions imply that the extensive hematitic breccias overprinted an older magnetite system which may have had similarities with those at Lightning Creek and Ernest Henry in the Cloncurry district.

Deposits of this family are inherently difficult to find and evaluate as even within a single district, there is no reliable relationship between the location of ore and any specific combination of geophysical characteristics. Diverse alteration assemblages, geochemistry and physical characteristics suggest the deposits reflect the interaction of multi-sourced fluids with different host rocks in a wide range of geological environments. Recent discoveries and research in the Cloncurry district have extended the range of deposit models available and aid the development of a rudimentary classification in which economic and exploration characteristics can be linked to variations in the mechanisms and environments of ore formation.

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