Subsurface mapping and core analyses of upper crustal intrusions and mineralization at the Questa porphyry molybdenum deposit, New Mexico, reveal that Mo-mineralization occurred through episodic emplacement of at least six intrusive units. The structure of intrusions associated with the Questa deposit is documented in a series of detailed cross sections and visualized with a 3D animation. Mineralizing intrusions are underlain by two post-mineralization intrusions and cut by late-stage barren dikes. The plutonic complex was structurally focused along a system of preexisting flat-lying faults and their associated fractures. Mineralization is spatially associated with specific intrusive units in the subsurface, and the highest Mo ore grades within established ore blocks are structurally associated with the smallest intrusions. Existing U/Pb thermal ionization mass spectrometry (TIMS) zircon geochronology in conjunction with new relative chronology presented herein indicate that mineralization began before 24.91 Ma. We present three new chemical abrasion U/Pb TIMS zircon ages—one from an amphibole-bearing intrusion associated with high-grade mineralization (dark-matrix porphyry, 24.74 ± 0.37 Ma), a rhyolite dike that cuts ore-grade rocks (24.50 ± 0.02 Ma), and an equigranular granite discovered during deep drilling (23.67 ± 0.02 Ma). The dark-matrix porphyry contains clasts of an earlier amphibole-free intrusion that is spatially associated with low-grade mineralization. Thus, mineralizing intrusions were, in part, intruded into slightly older porphyries, confirming that episodic mineralization continued after 24.91 Ma. The age of the barren dike (24.50 ± 0.02 Ma) is indistinguishable from that of a previously dated granite porphyry that is associated with low-grade mineralization (<0.05 wt% MoS2; Questa granite porphyry). These data suggest that mineralization waned by 24.5 Ma and that ore deposition occurred over ~500 ka. The new 23.67 Ma age of the deep equigranular granite, which underlies the Questa granite porphyry, further suggests that intrusions underlying the deposit were not related to mineralization. Detailed subsurface mapping and exploratory drilling indicate that intrusions associated with mineralization were small in volume and cooled rapidly, as evidenced by multiple internal contacts within sheets and rebrecciation textures. On the basis of observed cross-section reconstructions, petrology, alteration, and mineralization, the porphyritic rhyolite intrusions associated with mineralization in one of the largest orebodies in the deposit (the deep northeast) are less than 20-m-thick sheets that are separated by andesite wall rock. Thus, there is no evidence that this orebody formed above a cylindrical magma conduit that facilitated rapid convection, as is often modeled in these systems. We hypothesize that a set of similarly small-volume intrusions were responsible for the bulk of the ore in the southwest ore zone. Our interpretation that the mineralizing intrusions are small, thin, and subhorizontal distinguishes the Questa deposit from other Climax-type molybdenum deposits.
Research Article|March 05, 2019
Intrusive history of the Oligocene Questa porphyry molybdenum deposit, New Mexico
Sean P. Gaynor
Joshua M. Rosera