Marcona, the preeminent Andean magnetite deposit (1.9 Gt @ 55.4% Fe and 0.12% Cu), is located in the iron oxide copper-gold (IOCG) subprovince of littoral south-central Perú. Fe oxide and Cu (-Zn-Pb) sulfide mineralization was controlled by northeast-striking faults transecting a Middle Jurassic (Aalenian-to-Oxfordian) andesitic, shallow-marine arc and a succession of contiguous, plate boundary-parallel, Late Jurassic to mid-Cretaceous volcanosedimentary basins.
At Marcona, hydrothermal activity was initiated in the earliest Middle Jurassic (161–177 Ma) by high-temperature Mg-Fe metasomatism represented by cummingtonite and phlogopite-magnetite assemblages. Subsequently, during the terminal eruptions (156–162 Ma) of the arc, widespread albite-marialite alteration (Na-Cl metasomatism) was followed by the emplacement of an en echelon swarm of massive magnetite ore-bodies with subordinate, overprinted magnetite-sulfide assemblages, hosted largely by Paleozoic metasilici-clastics. The magnetite orebodies exhibit abrupt, smoothly curving contacts, dike-like to tubular apophyses, and intricate, amoeboid interfingering with dacite porphyry intrusions. There is no convincing megascopic or microscopic evidence for large-scale Fe metasomatism associated with the main, sulfide-poor mineralization. The largest, 400 Mt Minas 2-3-4 orebody is interpreted as a bimodal magnetite-dacite intrusion comprising commingled immiscible melts generated through the dissolution of metasedimentary quartz in parental andesitic magma. Oxygen and sulfur stable-isotope geothermometry indicates that the evolution at ca. 159 Ma from magnetite-biotite-calcic amphibole ± phlogopite ± fluorapatite to magnetite-phlogopite-calcic amphi-bole-pyrrhotite-pyrite assemblages coincided with quenching from above 800° C to below 450°C and the concomitant exsolution of dilute aqueous brines. Subsequently, chalcopyrite-pyrite-calcite ± pyrrhotite ± sphalerite ± galena assemblages, in part metasomatic, were deposited from lower temperature (≤360°C) brines.
The Cu-poor Marcona (“Kiruna-type”) magnetite and Cu-rich IOCG deposits in the district, therefore, although spatially contiguous, represent contrasting ore deposit types. The former are interpreted as the product of Fe oxide melt coexisting with dacite magma within an andesitic arc which failed during the closure of a back-arc basin. The weak associated magmatic-hydrothermal Cu sulfide mineralization at Marcona was generated through melt vesiculation and contrasts with the considerably higher grade Cu- and Ag-rich orebodies of the major Cu-rich IOCG deposits in the Central Andes, e.g., La Candelaria-Punta del Cobre, Mantoverde, Raúl-Condestable, and Mina Justa, which were the products of cool, oxidized, hydrothermal fluids plausibly expelled from the adjacent basins during tectonic inversion.