Abstract

The Santa Rita porphyry Cu deposit in New Mexico, USA, is characterized by a stockwork of three vein types that differ in morphology, mineralogy, and associated alteration assemblages. Early quartz veins associated with potassic alteration are composed of recrystallized granular quartz grains that host ubiquitous hypersaline liquid and vapor-rich fluid inclusions. The early quartz likely formed at high (≳500°C) temperatures and lithostatic pressures. Hypogene Cu mineralization at Santa Rita is in sulfide veins that reopened or crosscut the early quartz veins. The sulfide veins are surrounded by alteration halos containing chlorite and K-feldspar. Rare quartz crystals are present in some of these chalcopyrite and pyrite veins. The cores of the quartz crystals contain hypersaline liquid and vapor-rich fluid inclusions, whereas the rims mostly contain hypersaline liquid inclusions. The quartz crystals are interpreted to have formed close to the ductile-brittle transition as a result of the pressure drop from lithostatic to hydrostatic conditions. Formation of the quartz crystals was postdated by the deposition of Cu sulfides. Grain boundaries between the quartz and the sulfide minerals are irregular in shape, with sulfide crosscutting growth zones in the quartz. The Cu sulfides are interpreted to have formed from intermediate-density fluids that form secondary fluid inclusion assemblages in all earlier-formed quartz types. Microthermometric investigations showed that these fluid inclusion assemblages homogenize at ~385° to 435°C by critical or near-critical behavior and have salinities of <10 wt % NaCl equiv. The precipitation of Cu sulfides occurred as a result of cooling of these fluids following their escape from the lithostatic into the hydrostatic realm. Retrograde quartz solubility caused the corrosion of earlier-formed quartz during Cu sulfide deposition. The youngest veins at Santa Rita are composed of quartz and pyrite. These veins are associated with intense sericite alteration that overprinted all earlier alteration assemblages. The late quartz hosts primary and secondary liquid-rich fluid inclusions, but no intermediate-density fluid inclusions were identified. This quartz vein type formed at temperatures <360°C and hydrostatic pressures. The paragenetic relationships show that hypogene Cu mineralization at Santa Rita postdated potassic alteration of the host rocks. The Cu mineralization was formed by cooling intermediate-density fluids with critical or near-critical densities as they escaped from lithostatic to hydrostatic conditions.

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