The Early Permian Lizzie Creek Volcanic Group of the northern Bowen Basin, NE Queensland, Australia, has compositions that range from basalt through andesite to rhyolite with geochemical signatures (e.g., enrichment in Cs, Rb, Ba, U, Th, and Pb, depletion in Nb and Ta) that are typical of arc lavas. In the Mount Carlton district the Lizzie Creek Volcanic Group is host to high-sulfidation epithermal Cu-Au-Ag mineralization, whereas farther to the south near Collinsville (~50 km from Mount Carlton) these volcanic sequences are barren of magmatic-related mineralization. Here, we assess whether geochemical indicators of magma fertility (e.g., Sr/Y, La/Yb, V/Sc) can be applied to volcanic rocks through study of coeval volcanic sequences from these two locations.
The two volcanic suites share similar petrographic and major element geochemical characteristics, and both have undergone appreciable hydrothermal alteration during, or after, emplacement. Nevertheless, the two suites have distinct differences in alteration-immobile trace element (V, Sc, Zr, Ti, REE, Y) concentrations. The unmineralized suite has relatively low V/Sc and La/Yb, particularly in the high SiO2 rocks, which is related to magma evolution dominated by fractionation of clinopyroxene, plagioclase, and magnetite. By contrast, the mineralized suite has relatively high V/Sc but includes high SiO2 rocks with depleted HREE and Y contents, and hence high La/Yb. These trends are interpreted to reflect magma evolution under high magmatic H2O conditions leading to enhanced amphibole crystallization and suppressed plagioclase and magnetite crystallization. These rocks have somewhat elevated Sr/Y compared to the unmineralized suite, but as Sr is likely affected by hydrothermal mobility, Sr/Y is not considered to be a reliable indicator of magmatic conditions.
Our data show that geochemical proxies such as V/Sc and La/Yb that are used to assess Cu-Au fertility of porphyry intrusions can also be applied to cogenetic volcanic sequences, provided elemental trends with fractionation can be assessed for a volcanic suite. These geochemical tools may aid regional-scale exploration for Cu-Au mineralization in convergent margin terranes, especially in areas that have undergone limited exhumation or where epithermal and porphyry mineralization may be buried beneath cogenetic volcanic successions.