Abstract

Distribution patterns for biotitic alteration, sericitic alteration, and distinctive fluid-inclusion types in igneous host rocks of the porphyry copper ore body at Bingham, Utah, have been determined by petrographic examination of about 300 samples. These patterns are related to differences in original rock composition, variations in physical-chemical conditions during periods of intrusion and mineralization, and spatial position within the ore body.The distribution of biotitic (potassium-silicate) alteration assemblages and high-salinity fluid inclusions generally follows the crudely triangular form of the disseminated copper ore zone. Variations in abundance of hydrothermal biotite are attributed to differences in original mafic mineral content of the igneous host rocks. Biotitic alteration and initial copper mineralization were accomplished by high-salinity fluids concentrated during final crystallization of the monzonitic parent magma; genetic continuity between magmatic and hydrothermal stages is indicated.Pervasive sericitic alteration of plagioclase is confined to rocks in the northern one-third of the Bingham stock; a subzone of argillic alteration in the north-central part of the ore body occurs within the broader area of sericitic alteration. Fluids responsible for sericitic and argillic alteration were channeled by a broad zone of northeast-trending fractures.Hydrothermal minerals and high-salinity fluid inclusions occur within a large volume of shattered rock. Boiling of fluids during crystallization of the aplitic porphyry may account for the shattering. Sericitic (and argillic) alteration were apparently super-imposed on the earlier biotitic assemblage as the hydrothermal system cooled. Cooling and hydrolytic alteration were promoted by progressive introduction of meteoric waters. The many generations of inclusions trapped from boiling fluids in the temperature range 400 degrees to 600 degrees C suggest that the system was recharged repeatedly during the period of mineralization. Estimated fluid pressures of about 800 bars in the early stages of mineralization correspond to a lithostatic load of about 3 km; pressures were even lower (less than 200 bars) in the later stages and were probably controlled by hydrostatic conditions.

First Page Preview

First page PDF preview
You do not currently have access to this article.