The Late Triassic Galore Creek porphyry district is the largest accumulation of Cu-Au prospects in British Columbia, Canada, in terms of contained metal. The principal economic resource is the Central zone deposit. It comprises three high-grade centers: the Au-rich North and South gold lenses and the Cu-dominated Central replacement zone. Alteration footprints, ore shells, and porphyry intrusions in these centers dip 45° to 60° to the west in the North gold lens and southwest in the South gold lens and Central replacement zone, indicative of significant postmineral tilting. This inclination created an oblique vertical expression of the Central zone at surface and at depth, providing a +700-m depth profile through the deposit.
Galore Creek is considered to be the end-member of the silica-undersaturated class of alkalic porphyry Cu-Au deposits. It displays a unique hydrothermal alteration footprint, generally devoid of quartz veining. Despite the lack of crosscutting veins, a paragenetic sequence of several discrete potassic and calcic alteration events has been established. During main-stage alteration, two mineralization events occurred that formed the economic resource in the Central zone. Highly oxidizing fluids derived from porphyritic syenite to monzonite intrusions produced initial potassic alteration and sulfide mineralization in the North gold lens and South gold lens. Cu-Au ore shells are characterized by a gold-rich core dominated by bornite associated with hematite-dusted orthoclase, specular hematite, and anhydrite. The second period of hydrothermal activity caused brecciation and calcic alteration in the Central replacement zone. The calcic fluids formed hydrothermal cement grading from Ti-rich andraditic to grossularitic garnet in the core of the breccia to a diopside and magnetite-dominated assemblage at the margins. Calcic alteration also formed in the surrounding host rock. This alteration event was followed by potassic alteration and mineralization, characterized by biotite, anhydrite, and chalcopyrite in the Cu-rich ore shell of the Central replacement zone.
Most of the Au is hosted in bornite that is spatially associated with oxidized (reddened) rock units dominated by an alteration assemblage of orthoclase ± hematite ± specular hematite ± garnet ± anhydrite. High-grade Cu in the Central zone is related to abundant chalcopyrite that has commonly replaced an assemblage of biotite ± magnetite ± diopside. This distinct spatial separation strongly suggests that the local redox environment within the wall rocks governed sulfide and gold distributions.
The switch from early Au-rich mineralization to late-stage Cu-dominated mineralization appears to have been controlled by varying redox conditions within the magma. The change from more oxidized alteration assemblages (Fe3+ > Fe2+) to more reduced assemblages (Fe3+ ≤ Fe2+) is indicative of a change in oxidation potential that may have propelled sulfide saturation in the magma and, thus, the subsequent depletion of most of the Au.