The large Zijinshan high-sulfidation epithermal Cu-Au deposit, together with the adjacent Luoboling porphyry Cu-Mo deposit, constitutes a major porphyry-epithermal ore district in South China. Current debate centers on whether the Zijinshan and the adjacent Luoboling deposits are cogenetic or represent separate ore-forming events, which is a question of importance for exploration in the district. In this contribution, the magmatichydrothermal history of the relationship between Zijinshan and Luoboling is reconstructed based on new alunite 40Ar/39Ar ages from Zijinshan and zircon U-Pb ages of ore-related intrusions from both deposits. This study has been complemented by S isotope analysis on the dated alunite to assess their origin.

Three types of coexisting alunite and sulfide assemblages exist at Zijinshan, namely, (1) alunite-quartz-covellite cemented breccias; (2) alunite-digenite veins and (3) banded alunite-pyrite veins. Their field occurrences and S isotope features suggest a magmatic-hydrothermal origin for alunite-quartz-covellite cemented breccias and alunite-digenite veins, whereas the origin of alunite-pyrite veins is likely to be related to magmatic steam. Given the intimate textural coexistence between sulfides and alunite, four undisturbed 40Ar/39Ar plateau ages obtained from alunite-quartz-covellite cemented breccia and alunite-digenite vein-type alunite define the timing of Zijinshan high-sulfidation mineralization from 102.86 ± 0.61 to 101.19 ± 0.60 Ma. These agree with bracketing zircon U-Pb ages of pre-ore dacite porphyry at 104.8 ± 0.9 Ma and 104.7 ± 0.5 Ma and a zircon U-Pb age of a post-ore granite porphyry dike at 99.5 ± 0.7 Ma. Combined with their field occurrences, the four alunite ages may imply episodic hydrothermal pulses and a possible time span of over 500 k.y. for the overall high-sulfidation mineralization. Two alunite samples from alunite-pyrite veins yield a slightly disturbed 40Ar/39Ar plateau age at 101.67 ± 0.61 Ma and an apparently undisturbed age at 99.91 ± 0.59 Ma, probably reflecting partial or complete thermal resetting related to the coeval granite porphyry dikes. At Luoboling, zircon U-Pb analysis yields an age of 133.6 ± 1.1 Ma for a dark, ore vein-bearing quartz-diorite porphyry sample and confirms the petrographic observation that they are xenoliths of early wall rocks for the porphyry mineralization. A granodiorite porphyry sample with abundant A-veins is interpreted as an intermineral porphyry phase, dated at 106.5 ± 1.4 Ma. This age is interpreted as the upper limit for porphyry Cu-Mo mineralization and agrees well with previously reported molybdenite Re-Os and biotite 40Ar/39Ar ages, which collectively suggest porphyry Cu-Mo mineralization and potassic alteration at Luoboling were formed within the interval between ca. 106 and 104 Ma.

Taken together, the age of the Zijinshan high-sulfidation mineralization is substantially younger than the porphyry mineralization at Luoboling, and we conclude that there is no direct genetic link between the two deposits. However, the Zijinshan Cu-Au deposit is temporally associated with the deep porphyritic granodiorite, which gives zircon U-Pb ages from 102.1 ± 0.8 to 101.8 ± 0.5 Ma, overlapping with the alunite 40Ar/39Ar ages for the high-sulfidation mineralization. This finding has important implications for the ongoing exploration for the two mineralization types in the ore district and elsewhere.

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