Porphyry copper deposits (PCDs) represent the most important type of Cu reservoir on Earth, but the mechanism of Cu enrichment in PCDs is debated due to the lack of direct constraints. This issue may be resolved by the study of copper isotopes (δ65Cu), which are strongly fractionated during formation and/or precipitation of sulfides. Here we report high-precision Cu-isotope data on a large set of porphyries, mafic magmatic enclaves (MMEs), and sulfide ores from PCDs in southern Tibet. For comparison, barren intrusions from southern Tibet were also analyzed. The fertile porphyries and MMEs from PCDs have high Cu contents and elevated δ65Cu values compared with the barren intrusions and global average felsic rocks. These features are inconsistent with the known supergene processes after sulfide formation (e.g., leaching and weathering). Because sulfides formed from secondary Cu-rich fluids are enriched in heavy Cu isotopes, the elevated Cu contents and Cu-isotope ratios indicate that the Cu source for PCDs was a refertilized lithosphere enriched in sulfides. This suggests that initial Cu enrichment in magma sources could be a key step in the formation of giant PCDs in continental collision zones.

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