Abstract

The Altar porphyry Cu-(Mo-Au) deposit occurs in the Miocene to early Pliocene copper belt of the high Andes of western Argentina, close to the Chilean border. A cluster of late Miocene porphyries intruded a more extensive complex of early Miocene rhyolitic to andesitic volcanic and subvolcanic rocks. Potassic alteration in the Central Porphyry was partially overprinted by feldspar-destructive alteration and finally by argillic to advanced argillic alteration. Early stockwork veins have been cut successively by quartz-pyrite veins, tourmaline veins, and enargite veins. Based on correlation analysis of assay results and mapped abundances of these four vein types, we estimate that approximately 11 to 26% of the copper in the Altar orebody is associated with enargite veins, whereas the remainder is associated with the early stockwork veining and potassic alteration. Gold concentration is low compared with typical Cu-Au porphyries of the Andean back-arc region, but higher than in the giant Miocene deposits of Chile, at an average Au/Cu ratio of 0.14 × 10−4 by weight across the Central Porphyry orebody at Altar. Gold is dominantly associated with chalcopyrite in the domain of stockwork veining and potassic alteration. Small-scale assays in combination with petrographic observations and laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry microanalyses show that a significant fraction of the gold in the stockwork veins is enclosed in pyrite as submicroscopic particles attached to inclusions of a Bi-Te-Pb-Ag–enriched Cu-Fe sulfide phase. Microscopic grains of native gold also occur along grain boundaries between pyrite and chalcopyrite, and rarely as larger particles in enargite veins.

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