The large Dahongshan Fe-Cu-(Au-Ag) deposit in the Kangdian iron oxide copper-gold (IOCG) metallogenic province, southwest China, contains approximately 458.3 Mt of ore at 41.0% Fe, 1.35 Mt Cu (metal) at 0.78% Cu, and significant amounts of Au (16 t), Ag (141 t), Co (18,156 t), and Pd + Pt (2.1 t). The deposit consists mainly of two types of ores: (1) lenses of massive or banded magnetite-(hematite) hosted in extensively Na metasomatized metavolcanic rocks, metaarenite, and brecciated rocks, and (2) strata-bound disseminated, stockwork, and banded magnetite-chalcopyrite-(bornite) in mica schist and marble. Both types of orebodies and country rocks underwent extensive hydrothermal alteration, resulting in a similar paragenesis. Pervasive stage I sodic alteration formed widespread albite and local scapolite. It was subsequently replaced by Ca- or K-rich minerals represented by actinolite, K-feldspar, biotite, sericite, and chlorite of stages II and III. Magnetite is slightly younger than and partly overlaps the sodic alteration assemblages. Hematite is texturally later than magnetite, is locally abundant within the massive Fe oxide orebody, and is closely associated with sericite. Copper sulfides are coeval with quartz, biotite, sericite, and chlorite in stage III assemblages. Widespread siderite and ankerite predominate in stages II and III, respectively. Quartz-calcite veins mark the result of waning stage IV hydrothermal alteration. In addition to widespread alteration during the major ore-forming event, the deposit has also undergone extensive overprinting and remobilization during post-ore magmatic and metamorphic events.

The Dahongshan orebodies are intimately associated with abundant doleritic dikes and sills that have hydrothermal mineral assemblages similar to those in the ore-hosting rocks. One dolerite sill that cuts a massive Fe orebody has a laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry zircon U-Pb age of 1661 ± 7 Ma, which is, within uncertainty, consistent with the age of 1653 ± 18 Ma determined for hydrothermal zircons from stockwork chalcopyrite-magnetite ore. The zircon U-Pb ages are thus considered to mark the timing of major mineralization that formed the Dahongshan deposit. Post-ore modification is recorded by an Re-Os isochron age of 1026 ± 22 Ma for pyrite in discordant quartz-carbonate-sulfide veins, and by younger Neoproterozoic mineralization dated at ca. 830 Ma using Re-Os isotopes on molybdenite. The former age is contemporaneous with late Mesoproterozoic magmatism in the region, whereas the latter is coeval with regional Neoproterozoic metamorphic events in southwest China.

Carbon and oxygen isotope values of albitized marble are between those of mantle-derived magmatic carbon and dolostone end members. The ore-forming fluids that equilibrated with stage II magnetite have δ18O values of 9.1 to 9.5‰, whereas fluids linked to the deposition of quartz and ankerite during stages III and IV have lower δ18O values of 2.9 to 7.3‰. The oxygen isotope data indicate that the ore-forming fluids related to stage II are chiefly magmatically derived and mixed with abundant basinal brine during stages III and IV; this interpretation is consistent with sulfur isotope values of sulfides in the deposits. Pyrite and chalcopyrite from the Dahongshan deposit have a large range of δ34S values from –3.4 to + 12.4‰, implying mixing of magmatic and external sulfur (likely from basinal brines) in sedimentary rocks.

The Dahongshan deposit formed in an intracratonic rift setting due to underplating by mafic magmas that induced large-scale fluid circulation and pervasive sodic-calcic metasomatism in country rocks. Ore metals were derived mainly from a deep-seated magma chamber and partly from country rocks. Hydrothermal brecciation of the country rocks formed at the top of the dolerite intrusions and along zones of weakness within the country rocks owing to overpressure imposed by the ore fluids. Magnetite and hematite precipitated early near the dolerite intrusions, whereas Cu sulfides formed later in country rocks where sulfide saturation was favored. We propose that this genetic model may be widely applicable to Precambrian IOCG deposits elsewhere that formed in intracratonic rift settings.

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