Abstract

The Gaoua mining district, underlain by Paleoproterozoic volcanic and intrusive rocks of the Boromo-Goren greenstone belt in southern Burkina Faso, is a rare case where economic copper and gold resources occur together in the Birimian terrane of West Africa. The main country rock lithologies consist of flows and volcaniclastic sediments of basaltic to andesitic compositions. These are intruded by subvolcanic diorite and quartz diorite stocks and dikes, granophyre dikes and, less commonly, gabbroic dikes. The stocks are porphyritic in texture, locally brecciated, and characterized by development of a carbonate, anhydrite, and quartz stockwork system. Structural observations, detailed petrography, and sulfide geochemistry reveal that copper and gold in the stockworks and surrounding altered rocks cannot be associated with the same mineralizing event. Copper mineralization, mainly in the form of chalcopyrite, is typically observed in hydrothermal breccia and is associated with early arsenic-poor and gold-free pyrite. The geochemistry of the plutonic rocks and associated basalts and andesites implies formation in an arc setting. Textural evidence indicates that gold mineralization is closely tied to a second generation of sulfides, with the later pyrite hosting visible gold and minor chalcopyrite that clearly postdates the copper ore. Analyses of these pyrites by LA-ICP-MS reveal compositions rich in Ag, As, Au, Bi, Cu, and Pb. Pyrite with this signature was only observed in local shear and fracture zones that crosscut the host rocks and copper-rich breccia. Therefore, our data indicate the strongly deformed and metamorphosed porphyry copper mineralization in the Gaoua district is overprinted by orogenic gold mineralization. Formation of the early porphyry copper deposit took place at 2165 ± 24 Ma based upon Re-Os dating of the early pyrite; the age of the younger gold event, which is similar in style to that described throughout the West African craton, is not known but may be related to one of the lode gold episodes that are widespread through the West African craton at ~2150 and ~2100 to 2040 Ma. The Gaoua copper deposit, one of very few Precambrian porphyry copper deposits known in West Africa, formed in a volcanic-arc setting that predated the Eburnean orogeny in the Boromo-Goren greenstone belt.

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