The Andean Cordillera is generally regarded as the product of easterly subduction of oceanic lithosphere below South America since the Late Triassic, but recent syntheses have challenged this paradigm. In one model, W-dipping oceanic subduction pulls the continent west until it collides with a ribbon continent that now forms the coastal region and Western Cordillera of the Peruvian Andes. A second model involves westerly oceanic subduction until 120 to 100 Ma, without the involvement of a ribbon continent, to explain deep, subducted slabs revealed by mantle tomographic images. Both assume that “Andean-style” E-dipping subduction did not exist during the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous. Another model, also involving mantle tomography, assumes that a back-arc basin opened inboard of the trench between 145 and 100 Ma, displacing the E-dipping subduction zone offshore without changing its polarity.

This article examines the implications of these hypotheses for southern Peruvian metallogenesis during the Mesozoic, when marginal basins opened and closed and were thrust eastward and then were intruded, between 110 and ~50 Ma, by a linear belt of multiple plutons known as the Coastal Batholith. The earliest mineralization in southern Peru is located on the coast and comprises major iron oxide and minor porphyry copper deposits emplaced between 180 and 110 Ma. This was followed by Cu-rich iron oxide copper-gold deposits and a large Zn-rich volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposit between 115 and 95 Ma, then minor porphyry Cu deposits at ~80 Ma. A second episode of localized VMS mineralization followed at 70 to 68 Ma, then a group of at least five giant porphyry Cu-Mo deposits in southernmost Peru formed between 62 and 53 Ma.

The conventional model of Andean-style subduction, which explains many features of Mesozoic Andean metallogenesis in terms of changing plate vectors and velocities, is a poor fit with mantle tomographic anomalies that are thought to record the paleopositions of ancient trenches. A ribbon-continent model requires some plutons of the Coastal Batholith to have been separated from others by an ocean basin. West-dipping oceanic subduction does not account for Jurassic mineralization and magmatism in southern Peru. A model involving a back-arc basin that opened inboard of the existing trench, forcing E-dipping subduction to retreat offshore between 145 and 100 Ma, seems to best explain the metallogenic and tomographic data.

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