This investigation of the space-time progression of magmatism and hydrothermal activity in the Patagonia Mountains of southern Arizona is based on field and paragenetic relationships, and on U-Pb and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of igneous and hydrothermal minerals. The Patagonia Mountains consist of Precambrian, Paleozoic, and Mesozoic sedimentary, granitic, and volcanic rocks, Laramide volcanic rocks, and a core of Laramide intrusions that comprise the Patagonia Mountains batholith. Laramide igneous rocks and adjacent Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks contain significant porphyry Cu-Mo deposits, Mo-Cu breccia pipes, Ag replacement deposits, and numerous other Cu-Pb-Zn-Ag replacement and vein deposits. Ages of igneous and hydrothermal minerals from 20 U-Pb and 52 40Ar/39Ar determinations define four magmatic and magmatic-hydrothermal events that formed the batholith and altered parts of it and adjacent rocks; cumulatively the events span at least 16 m.y., from ~74 to 58 Ma. The oldest event of this succession includes the 74 Ma Washington Camp stock and spatially associated Cu-Pb-Zn-Ag replacement deposits in Paleozoic carbonate rocks of the Washington Camp-Duquesne district. Eruption of 73 to 68 Ma volcanic rocks in the northern part of the range was the next youngest event, which coincides temporally with replacement and vein deposits in Paleozoic carbonate rocks at the Flux mine (~71 Ma). An event at 65 to 62 Ma is marked by emplacement of small-volume quartz monzonite, granodiorite, and diorite intrusions, formation of the Ventura breccia deposit in Jurassic granite at 65 to 64 Ma, and formation of other Pb-Zn-Ag-Cu replacement and vein deposits (~62 Ma; Blue Nose and Morning Glory). The Red Mountain porphyry Cu-Mo system is hosted by ~62 Ma granodiorite and Laramide volcanic rocks (73–68 Ma) at the northern end of the batholith. It includes a deep, chalcopyrite-bornite resource (~60 Ma) that is associated with potassic and sericitic alteration and a near-surface chalcocite-enargite resource (60 Ma) that is associated with advanced, supergene-enriched argillic alteration.
The youngest event includes the Sunnyside porphyry Cu-Mo system and a Cu-Mo breccia deposit at Red Hill (Four Metals mine), both of which formed in large-volume quartz monzonite, granodiorite, quartz monzonite porphyry, and quartz feldspar porphyry (~61–59 Ma). Similar to the Red Mountain system, the Sunnyside system consists of a deep chalcopyrite resource that occurs in ~60 to 59 Ma quartz feldspar porphyry, and a near-surface, slightly younger (~59–58 Ma) enargite-chalcocite-tennantite resource that occurs in quartz feldspar porphyry, quartz monzonite porphyry, and Mesozoic rocks. The Red Hill Cu-Mo breccia deposit is hosted by large-volume quartz monzonite, granodiorite, and quartz monzonite porphyry (~61–59 Ma). Discrepancies between field and paragenetic relationships and some analytic ages at Sunnyside and Red Hill preclude precise dating of mineralization stages, and may reflect disturbance of isotope systems by multiple, co-spatial to juxtaposed intrusive and hydrothermal events, and/or by unrecognized intrusions. Numerous vein and replacement deposits at the northern end of the batholith, including the Hardshell Ag resource and the Three R supergene chalcocite resource, are distal deposits of the Sunnyside and Red Mountain systems. Small, ~61 to 59 Ma Cu-Mo deposits in large-volume intrusions in the southern part of the batholith consist of hydrothermal quartz, biotite, K-feldspar, muscovite, chalcopyrite, and molybdenite.
The age span of magmatic and magmatic-hydrothermal events in the Patagonia Mountains, minimally 16 m.y., is comparable to that of certain other magmatic-hydrothermal successions that contain porphyry Cu-Mo systems. Magmatic-hydrothermal events of the Wasatch-Oquirrh igneous trend, Utah, and the Boulder batholith, Montana, both span ~17 m.y. and include the Bingham and Butte porphyry Cu-Mo, vein and replacement deposits, respectively. Plutons and mineral deposits in the Pima district, Arizona, which includes the porphyry Cu-Mo deposits at Sierrita-Esperanza, Mission-Pima-San Xavier North, and Twin Buttes, formed over an interval of ~14 m.y. The diversity of igneous and hydrothermal products likely reflects evolutionary processes occurring at multiple sites in the lithosphere and at different time scales from >10 m.y. to less than the geochronologic precision currently achievable.