Based on a global compilation of whole-rock geochemical data, Sr/Y and Sr/MnO are identified as effective discriminators between ore-forming and unprospective intrusions in the porphyry Cu setting. Intrusive rocks are classified into three fertility groups – prospective, unprospective and mixed-signal – designed to assist explorers as a discrimination tool, narrowing the exploration search space in porphyry Cu districts.

Portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) data of Sr, Y and MnO were collected on pulp powders and rock slabs from six porphyry Cu (±Mo ± Au) districts. Pre- and post-mineralization intrusions from porphyry Cu districts have lower Sr/Y and Sr/MnO values than syn-mineralization intrusions from the same districts, although absolute values are variable between districts.

pXRF data were compared to conventional whole-rock data to determine if pXRF data were appropriate substitutes for conventional whole-rock methods of evaluating the ore-forming potential of intrusive rocks. pXRF data collected on pulp material were found to be more accurate (within 16% of conventional methods) and more precise (<5% relative standard deviation (RSD)) than those collected on intact rock slabs (within 37% of conventional methods and <24% RSD). These differences are attributed to the grain size and mineral homogeneity of samples. Despite the low precision of pXRF analyses on individual rock slabs (mean RSD of 24% Sr/Y and 32% Sr/MnO), the mean values for each sample plot in the expected fertility field on the Sr/Y and Sr/MnO diagram. Our results demonstrate that in situ pXRF data collection provides an effective discriminator of Cu fertility, and represents a powerful field exploration tool.

Supplementary material: Tabulated pXRF data for all samples including standards are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4447769

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