Abstract

Pyrite is ubiquitous in the world-class iron oxide copper-gold (IOCG) deposits of the Candelaria-Punta del Cobre district, documented from early to late stages of mineralization and observed in deep and shallow levels of mineralized bodies. Despite its abundance, the chemical and isotopic signature of pyrite from the Candelaria-Punta del Cobre district, and most IOCG deposits worldwide, remains poorly understood. We evaluated in situ chemical and isotopic variations at the grain scale in a set of pyrite-bearing samples collected throughout the district in order to characterize and further understand the nature of mineralization in this IOCG system. Our multianalytical approach integrated synchrotron micro-X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF) mapping of pyrite grains with electron probe microanalysis and laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry data, and sulfur isotope determinations using secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) complemented with bulk sulfur isotope analyses of coeval pyrite, chalcopyrite, and anhydrite. Synchrotron μ-XRF elemental concentration maps of individual pyrite grains reveal a strong zonation of Co, Ni, As, and Se. The observed relationships between Ni and Se are interpreted to reflect changes in temperature and redox conditions during ore formation and provide constraints on fluid evolution. Co and Ni concentrations and ratios suggest contributions from magmas of mafic-intermediate composition. Pyrite chemical concentrations reflect potential stratigraphic controls, where the sample from the upper part of the stratigraphy diverges from trends formed by the rest of the sample set from lower stratigraphic levels. The SIMS δ34S values of pyrite (and chalcopyrite) range between –2 up to 10‰, and bulk δ34S values of pyrite range between 4 up to 12‰. The majority of the δ34S analyses, falling between –1 and 2‰, indicate a magmatic source for sulfur and, by inference, for the hydrothermal ore fluid(s). Variation in the δ34S signature can be explained by changes in the redox conditions, fluid sources, and/or the temperature of the hydrothermal fluid. The Se/S ratio combined with δ34S values in pyrite is consistent with mixing between a magmatic-hydrothermal fluid and a fluid with a probable basinal signature. The results of this study are consistent with the hydrothermal fluids responsible for mineralization in the Candelaria-Punta del Cobre district being predominantly of magmatic origin, plausibly from mafic-intermediate magmas based on the Ni-Co content in pyrite. External fluid incursion, potentially from a basinal sedimentary source, occurred late in the evolution of the system, adding additional reduced sulfur as pyrite. There is no evidence to suggest that the late fluid added significant Cu-Au mineralization, but this cannot be ruled out. Finally, the data reveal that trace element ratios coupled with spatially resolved sulfur isotope data in pyrite are powerful proxies to track the magmatic-hydrothermal evolution of IOCG systems and help constrain the source of their contained metals.

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