Porphyry Cu ± Mo ± Au deposits are commonly associated with intermediate composition arc-related igneous rocks with high Sr/Y (and La/Yb) ratios, and such rocks are equated by some researchers with melts derived from subducted oceanic crust undergoing eclogite facies metamorphism (“adakites”). However, similar geochemical characteristics are readily developed in normal asthenospheric mantle wedge-derived magmas by fractionation of amphibole and/or garnet, and/or by interaction with crustal materials during ascent through the upper plate lithosphere.

While there is widespread evidence for such fractionation and contamination processes in porphyry magmas, there is little direct evidence for an origin by slab melting. The enhanced fertility of arc magmas relates primarily to their high water content, which is required for the formation of magmatic-hydrothermal systems upon shallow crustal emplacement. Magmatic water contents >4 wt percent H2O cause abundant amphibole (± garnet) fractionation but suppression of plagioclase crystallization at deep crustal levels, resulting in increasing Sr/Y and La/Yb ratios with differentiation, commonly into “adakitic” ranges, but not reflecting slab melting. Additional factors that affect arc magma fertility are relatively high oxidation states and sulfur content, but these are secondary to the requirement for sufficient water. Thus, arc magmatic suites with high Sr/Y ratios and evidence for the presence of hydrous phenocryst phases (hornblende and/or biotite) are indeed prospective for porphyry Cu ± Mo ± Au deposits, but only because these parameters indicate high magmatic water content.

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