Abstract

In 2013, a diamond drill program tested an extensive advanced argillic alteration lithocap within the Hu’u project on eastern Sumbawa Island, Indonesia. A very large and blind copper-gold deposit (Onto) was discovered, in which copper occurs largely as disseminated covellite with pyrite, and as pyrite-covellite veinlets in a tabular block measuring at least 1.5 × 1 km, with a vertical thickness of ≥1 km.

Copper and gold are spatially related with a series of coalesced porphyry stocks that intrude a polymictic diatreme breccia capped by a sequence of intramaar laminated siltstones, volcaniclastic and pyroclastic rocks, and overlain by andesite flows and domes. The porphyry intrusions were emplaced at shallow depth (≤1.3 km), with A-B–type quartz veinlet stockworks developed over a vertical interval of 300 to 400 m between ~100 and 500 m below sea level (bsl), 600 to 1,000 m below the present surface, which is at 400 to 600 m above sea level.

In the area drilled at Onto, the diatreme breccia, all porphyry intrusions and, to a lesser extent, the surrounding older andesite sequence have all been overprinted by intense subhorizontal advanced argillic alteration, zoned downward from illite-smectite, quartz-dickite to quartz-alunite and quartz-pyrophyllite ± diaspore alteration. The alteration package includes two particularly well-developed zones of residual quartz with vuggy texture in subhorizontal zones at shallow depth, the upper one is still porous but the lower horizon, ~100 m thick, is largely silicified and is located at or near the top of the quartz-alunite alteration.

Mineralization starts below the lowermost silicic horizon with more than 90% of the current resource in quartz-pyrophyllite-alunite and quartz-alunite alteration. Mineralization is dominated by a high-sulfidation assemblage of covellite-pyrite ± native sulfur largely in open-space fillings and replacements, but also as discrete pyrite-covellite and covellite only veins down to at least 1 km. Although the greatest amount of copper occurs as paragenetically late covellite deposited during formation of the advanced argillic alteration, approximately 60% of resource at 0.3% Cu cutoff still occurs within the porphyry stocks, indicating the porphyry stocks are a fundamental control on mineralization. There is considerable remobilization and dispersion of copper and, to a lesser extent, gold into the surrounding pre-mineral breccia and the late intermineral intrusions from the two earliest porphyry phases, resulting in quite consistent copper and gold grades throughout the currently delineated mineral resource. The very high sulfidation state of the mineralization is thought to be a consequence of the metal-bearing ore fluids cooling in the advanced argillic-altered host rocks in the absence of a rock buffer.

Early chalcopyrite-bornite ± pyrite mineralization with potassic ± chloritic and sericitic alteration is only preserved on the margins of the system and more rarely at depth in a few holes 600 m bsl (~1,100 m below surface) but makes up only a small proportion (~8%) of the current resource.

The Onto system is exceptionally young and formed rapidly in the middle Pleistocene and is not significantly eroded. A U-Pb zircon age for the andesite that caps the volcanosedimentary host rocks provides a maximum age of 0.838 ± 0.039 Ma, with a slightly younger porphyry zircon crystallization age of 0.688 ± 0.053 Ma. Re-Os dating of molybdenite that is associated with both the quartz vein stockwork and high-sulfidation assemblage copper mineralization shows overlap between 0.44 ± 0.02 and 0.35 ± 0.0011 Ma. 40Ar/39Ar ages for alunite within the advanced argillic alteration block ranges from 0.98 ± 0.22 to 0.284 ± 0.080 Ma, and alunite closely associated with covellite spans a period from 0.537 ± 0.064 to 0.038 ± 0.018 Ma.

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