Abstract

Ultramafic to mafic igneous intrusions of the Las Aguilas district form part of a belt of generally mafic plutonic bodies within medium- and high-grade early Paleozoic metamorphic rocks in the southern Sierras Pampeanas region, Province of San Luis. The intrusions host the largest known nickel sulfide resource in Argentina and contain significant Cu, Co and PGE mineralization (2.2 Mt at 0.5% Ni, 0.5% Cu, 0.035% Co). Sulfides at Las Aguilas Este, one of two principal mineralized zones, are hosted by a body comprising subvertically dipping units of predominantly orthopyroxenite and melanorite cumulate, with lesser dunite, harzburgite, norite, leuconorite, and amphibolite. The units are zoned horizontally from ultramafic to mafic compositions, representing primary magmatic zonation away from an original base or side of the intrusion. Intercumulus nettextured and disseminated aggregates of pyrrhotite-chalcopyrite-pentlandite are concentrated in the peridotitic zones and extend into melanorite. Whole rock major and trace element compositions, and olivine chemistry, indicate that the parent magma was gabbroic/basaltic with 100 (Mg/Mg+Fe) near 59, and resembles tholeiitic magmas generated in subduction-related arc, or back-arc settings. Unusually aluminous Cr-bearing spinel is compositionally similar to those in some synorogenic mafic/ultramafic plutons in magmatic arc settings. Relatively Ni-depleted olivines and low Cu/Pd ratios are indicative of magmatic sulfide segregation early in the crystallization of the magma. Early orthopyroxene saturation and virtual lack of clinopyroxene, in conjunction with sulfur isotope values up to +6.6 per mil, spinel compositions, and presence of graphite, phlogopite and magmatic horn-blende, all attest to probable crustal contamination of the parent magma. Assimilation of crustal sulfur may have been crucial in the early attainment of sulfide saturation and resultant formation of magmatic Ni-Cu sulfide mineralization. Fabrics, textures and mineralogy of the intrusions and country rocks and U-Pb zircon dating indicate syntectonic-synmetamorphic emplacement at 478+ or -6 Ma during the Famatinian (Ordovician) orogeny. Minor to locally significant recrystallization and deformation of mafic-ultramafic rocks and redistribution of sulfides and PGE occurred during and following the Famatinian orogeny. The Las Aguilas intrusion is one of several tholeiitic mafic-ultramafic intrusive complexes within an Ordovician arc - back-arc system in the Sierras Pampeanas. Aeromagnetic datasets and regional mapping suggest there is further potential for intrusion-hosted Ni-Cu mineralization along this eroded magmatic arc.

You do not currently have access to this article.