The Tongkuangyu copper deposit in the Zhongtiaoshan region, southern Trans-North China orogen, is hosted by a poorly constrained sequence of Paleoproterozoic volcano-sedimentary (quartz-sericite schist and biotite schist) and granitic rocks that have been metamorphosed to lower greenschist facies and variably deformed. The deposit has previously been proposed to be either a porphyry-type or a sediment-hosted stratiform Cu deposit, and its age of formation has been debated.

The quartz-sericite schist is interpreted to be a felsic crystal tuff and consists of angular quartz crystals in a fine-grained sericite-altered matrix. Two quartz-sericite schist samples yielded zircon U-Pb upper concordia intercept ages of 2512 ± 12 (2σ, mean square of weighted deviates [MSWD] = 0.19) and 2335 ± 16 Ma (2σ, MSWD = 0.80). Biotite schist, which is interleaved locally with the quartz-sericite schist and is interpreted to be a basaltic-andesitic sill, yielded a younger zircon U-Pb upper concordia intercept age of 2191 ± 10 Ma (2σ, MSWD = 1.7). Five samples of granodiorite and granodiorite porphyry that intruded the schist sequence yielded similar zircon U-Pb ages, with a weighted mean upper concordia intercept age of 2182 ± 7 Ma (2σ, MSWD = 1.3). These results suggest that the volcanic sequence was deposited between ∼2.5 and 2.3 Ga and was intruded by basaltic-andesitic sills and a suite of granodiorite and granodiorite porphyry intrusions at ∼2.19 to 2.18 Ga.

Two stages of copper mineralization are interpreted to have formed after pervasive sericite alteration of the felsic volcanic rocks. Stage 1 mineralization includes disseminated and deformed quartz veinlets containing chalcopyrite ± pyrite ± magnetite ± molybdenite associated with biotite ± K-feldspar alteration in granodiorite porphyry and schist. Stage 2 comprises undeformed quartz-chlorite-carbonate veins with bornite ± chalcopyrite ± magnetite associated with local chlorite and silicic alteration. Allanite crystals intergrown with chalcopyrite in the granodiorite porphyry yielded an approximate concordia U-Pb age of 2115 ± 31 Ma (2σ, MSWD = 2.3). Two molybdenite samples in a deformed quartz-chalcopyrite-molybdenite vein yielded Re-Os model ages of 2106 ± 9 and 2089 ± 9 Ma (2σ), consistent with previously published results.

Hydrothermal monazite grains with Cu-Fe sulfide inclusions in the granodiorite porphyry, quartz-sericite schist, and undeformed chlorite-bornite-quartz veins yielded much younger U-Pb upper concordia intercept ages of 1832 ± 16 (2σ, MSWD = 0.48), 1810 ± 14 (2σ, MSWD = 0.92), and 1809 ± 12 Ma (2σ, MSWD = 0.38), respectively. The results are in agreement with four Re-Os model ages for pyrite mineral separates from undeformed quartz-sulfide veins, which yielded a weighted mean age of 1807 ± 4 Ma (2σ, n = 4, MSWD = 0.42). In contrast, hydrothermal rutile crystals in the quartz-sericite schist and biotite schist yielded a range of roughly concordant ages between 2.1 and 1.8 Ga, reflecting isotopic disturbance.

We interpret these results to indicate original copper mineralization at ∼2.1 Ga that is significantly later than the granodiorite (∼2.18 Ga) and schists (∼2.5–2.2 Ga), followed by hydrothermal remobilization and metamorphism at ∼1.8 Ga. The metavolcanic and granodiorite porphyry host rocks, alteration styles, and disseminated and veinlet form of the earlier mineralization are strongly reminiscent of porphyry Cu deposits, and ages of ∼2.1 Ga have been reported for one intrusion and three volcanic rock samples from the district. The Tongkuangyu, therefore, represents one of the oldest known porphyry copper deposits. Remobilization of copper occurred at ∼1.8 Ga during the Zhongtiao orogeny.

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