The timescales and duration of ore-forming processes in skarn systems are not well constrained. To better understand this, we present high-precision chemical abrasion-isotope dilution-thermal ionization mass spectrometry (CA-ID-TIMS) U-Pb zircon and isotope dilution-negative-thermal ionization mass spectrometry (ID-N-TIMS) Re-Os molybdenite geochronology of the Xiaojiayingzi Mo skarn deposit (0.13 Mt Mo at 0.22 wt %), northeastern China. The Xiaojiayingzi deposit is related to an intrusive complex composed of gabbroic diorite, monzodiorite, and granite porphyry. Molybdenite mineralization occurred in two ore blocks, Xiaojiayingzi (0.11 Mt Mo) and Kangzhangzi (0.02 Mt Mo). In the Kangzhangzi ore block, Mo mineralization is concentrated in skarn adjacent to a deep-seated granite porphyry, with minor disseminated and quartz veinlet mineralization within the granite porphyry. In contrast, economic Mo mineralization in the Xiaojiayingzi ore block is concentrated in skarns located between the contact of steeply dipping monzodiorite and the Mesoproterozoic Wumishan Formation, with minor Mo mineralization found in quartz and endoskarn veins hosted in the monzodiorite. Skarn mineralization in both ore blocks converges downward into the mineralized granite porphyry. In the Kangzhangzi ore block, skarn is zoned from deep proximal dark red-brown garnet to shallow distal dark-green pyroxene. In the Xiaojiayingzi ore block, proximal skarn is garnet rich, whereas pyroxene increases away from the monzodiorite-Wumishan Formation contact. In addition, pyroxene becomes more Fe and Mn rich with distance from the intrusions; Pb, Zn, and Ag increase toward the top of the system; and Mo and Fe increase with depth.

High-precision CA-ID-TIMS U-Pb zircon geochronology indicates the gabbroic diorite crystallized at 165.359 ± 0.028/0.052/0.18 Ma (uncertainties presented as analytical/+ tracer/+ decay constant uncertainties), with subsequent crystallization of the monzodiorite and granite porphyry at 165.361 ± 0.040/0.059/0.19 and 165.099 ± 0.026/0.051/0.18 Ma, respectively. High-precision ID-N-TIMS Re-Os molybdenite geochronology indicates molybdenite mineralization at Xiaojiayingzi occurred in at least three discrete magmatic-hydrothermal pulses (nominally between 165.48 ± 0.09–165.03 ± 0.13, 163.73 ± 0.09, and 163.11 ± 0.11 Ma). The first episode of molybdenite mineralization formed in exoskarns, endoskarns, and quartz veins and had a minimum duration of 450 ± 40 k.y., between 165.48 ± 0.09/0.68/0.85 and 165.03 ± 0.13/0.67/0.85 Ma. It is likely that skarn ore represents a composite series of mineralization events, more than the three events capable of identification within analytical uncertainty of these high-precision data. Finally, Re-Os dating of quartz Mo veins cutting the monzodiorite and granite porphyry indicates that some mineralization postdated the observed intrusions, between 163.73 ± 0.09/0.70/0.86 and 163.11 ± 0.11/0.70/0.86 Ma, interpreted to be the result of deeper, unobserved intrusions. Collectively, these ages indicate that protracted, pulsed Mo mineralization at the Xiaojiayingzi deposit occurred over a period of at least 2.4 m.y. These data suggest that individual magmatic and/or skarn garnet ages may significantly underestimate the full duration of mineralization. In addition, this study highlights that systematically identifying skarn deposits associated with multiphase intrusive systems may reveal targets for future exploration, as it may point to previously undiscovered mineral resources.

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