Elucidating metal transport agents is the key to understanding the genesis of deposits and tracking the locations of concealed orebodies. Here, we integrate H-O-S-Cu isotopic data from the shear-zone-hosted Lingyun Cu deposit, China, as a means to fingerprint metal transport agents. Sulfide mineralization can be divided into early and late stages, which consist of chalcopyrite + bornite + quartz veins and chalcopyrite + bornite + ankerite veinlets, respectively. Both δ18Ofluid and δD values of fluid inclusions hosted by quartz (δ18Ofluid: 0.5‰ to 9.9‰, δD: –103.9‰ to –60.1‰) and δ65Cu values of sulfides (–1.85‰ to +0.39‰) from the early stage progressively decrease from the southeastern to northwestern portions of the Lingyun deposit, whereas sulfide δ34S simultaneously shifts toward heavier values (–14.4‰ to 5.0‰). The δ34S and δ65Cu values of sulfides from the late stage have restricted ranges from –11.2‰ to –9.3‰ and –0.30‰ to 0.05‰, respectively. The possibilities of meteoric water addition, water-rock interaction, inter-mineral Cu partitioning, diffusion, and oxidation could be ruled out as reasons for having caused systematic H-O-S-Cu isotope variations. Vapor-liquid separation resulted in preferential incorporation of light Cu, H, and O isotopes into the vapor phase. The decrease in oxygen fugacity in the fluids resulted in a shift toward heavier δ34S values as fluid flowed outward. Vapor-phases are the dominant transport agents for Cu in the Lingyun deposit, which may be widely applicable to shear-zone-hosted deposits. The direction of progressively increasing δ65Cu, δD, and δ18O values and decreasing δ34S values allows identification of potential locations of concealed orebodies.

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