Abstract

The generation of large deposits of Au and Cu in suprasubduction-zone settings depends upon a combination of factors, including availability of the chalcophile elements to arc magmas in their mantle source regions, and the operation of suitable hydrothermal systems in the upper crust where the deposits eventually form. The removal of chalcophile elements from the mantle wedge into arc magmas can only occur if sulfide is absent from the melted source rock, requiring oxidation of the mantle wedge to values of log fO2 > FMQ + 2, where fO2 is oxygen fugacity and FMQ is the fayalite-magnetite-quartz oxygen buffer. The only agent capable of effecting this change is ferric iron, carried in solution by slab-derived partial melts or supercritical fluids. Arc magmas with high potential to generate Au and Cu deposits will have certain geochemical characteristics; they will have fO2 more than two log units above FMQ and they will have either adakitic, sodic-alkaline, or potassic-ultrapotassic affinities. Favorable tectonic settings include subduction of very young lithosphere or very slow or oblique convergence, flat subduction, and the cessation of subduction.

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