Abstract

New regional- to vein-scale geologic mapping and structural analysis of the Carboniferous Pataz gold vein system (~10 Moz Au) reveal critical insights into the structural control on gold mineralization along the Eastern Andean Cordillera of northern Peru. The Pataz basement comprises continental volcanic arc and marginal to marine sedimentary rocks, which experienced intensive D2 deformation associated with Late Famatinian northeast to southwest compressive fold-and-thrust belt development. The D2 event produced an E-NE–dipping structural grain, including (1) tilted and F2 folded S1 foliations, (2) local F2 axial planar S2 foliations, and (3) subparallel D2 thrust faults. Intrusions, constituting the ca. 342 to 332 Ma (Mississippian) Pataz batholith, were emplaced along strike of the prominent Río Marañón fault and inherited the D2 basement structures, as evident in the orientation of suprasolidus magmatic flow zones and intrusive contacts within the batholith. Progressive horst-and-graben development affecting the volcanic carapace of the Pataz batholith records late syn- to postmagmatic uplift and transition into a NW-SE–extensional regime.

We show that the E-NE–dipping, batholith-hosted gold vein system formed through synchronous activation of two geometric fault-fill vein types, following (1) the moderately E-NE–dipping D2 basement-inherited competency contrasts within the batholith and (2) shallow NE-dipping Andersonian footwall thrusts, during NE-directed shortening (D3a). Both geometric vein types display an early paragenetic stage (I) of quartz-pyrite, progressing texturally from hydraulic breccia into crack-seal laminated shear veins. A second (II), undeformed quartz-pyrite-sphalerite-galena paragenetic stage is observed to fill previously established dilational sites adjacent to newly formed D3b normal faults, which likely formed during regional NW-SE–extensional horst-graben development.

Kinematics and relative timing indicate that, upon batholith solidification, D3a transpressional dextral strike-slip ruptures along the Río Marañón fault superimposed a lower-order Riedel-type fault system. Fluid-assisted fault activation preferentially impinged on the D2 basement-inherited competency contrasts within the batholith. Subsequent transition into a transtensional regime led to the D3b normal faulting, providing a feeder system for stage II fluid influx. The tectonic switch may be explained either by increasing tensile strain accommodation upon progressive strike-slip movement within a regional dilational jog or by larger-scale crustal relaxation of the late Gondwana margin upon final Pangea assembly.

Our new structural model for the Pataz vein system evolution highlights the importance of basement structural inheritance in controlling the localization of gold mineralization along polycyclic supercontinent margins. We provide valuable insights for exploration targeting of complex vein arrays within rheologically heterogeneous host rocks.

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