Abstract

Paleozoic porphyry copper deposits are generally much less common than their Mesozoic or Cenozoic counterparts, as they can be completely eroded in rapidly uplifting arcs. There are, however, some large Paleozoic porphyry copper deposits preserved worldwide, especially in the Central Asian orogenic belt, although the processes by which these ancient porphyry deposits were preserved are poorly constrained. The Carboniferous Yandong porphyry copper deposit was selected as a case study to resolve this issue using a combination of thermal history models derived from low-temperature thermochronology data and regional geologic records. Our results show that Yandong preserves a record of at least two episodes of cooling separated by a phase of mild Middle Jurassic reheating. These two cooling events included one major event, linked to the Qiangtang collision or northward motion of Tarim plate during the late Permian to Triassic, and one minor event, possibly related to the Lhasa collision or closure of Mongol-Okhotsk Ocean from the Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous, respectively. Tectonic quiescence and limited exhumation prevailed from the Late Cretaceous to Cenozoic in the Yandong area. Combining our results with regional geologic records, we propose that extensional tectonic subsidence, postmineralization burial, dry paleoclimatic conditions, and Cenozoic tectonic quiescence were key factors for the preservation of Yandong. This study demonstrates that anomalously old apatite fission track ages, integrated with age-elevation relationships, can have implications for mineral exploration strategies in the Chinese Tianshan orogens.

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