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CANDELARIA ANDTHE PUNTA DEL COBRE DISTRICCHILE: VMSOREPIGENETICHYDROTHERMAL DEPOSITS?

301
CANDELARIA AND THE PUNTA DEL COBRE
DISTRIC CHILE: VMS OR EPIGENETIC
HYDROTHERMAL DEPOSITS?
Richard A. Leveille
PHELPS DODGE EXPLORATI ON CORPORATI ON
A AA AABSTRACT BSTRACT BSTRACT BSTRACT BSTRACT
In 1980 a syngenetic, submarine-exhalative origin was proposed
for the iron oxide-copper-gold deposits of the Punta del Cobre district
(production plus reser ves: Approximately 120 Mt of 1.5% Cu, 0.2
to 0.6 g/t Au, and 2 to 8 g/t Ag) near Copiap, Chile, which has been
the subject of lively debate within the geological community of Chile.
The discovery of the nearby Candelaria deposit by Phelps Dodge,
with 400 Mt of 1% Cu, 0.2 g/t Au, and 4.5 g/t Ag has, if anything,
added fuel to the ongoing genetic controversy surrounding the district
deposits.
Most mineralization is hosted in the volcano-sedimentary pre-Upper
Valanginian Punta del Cobre Formation, which is overlain by the
predominantly calcareous Chaarcillo Group. The former has been divided
into two units. The upper unit (up to >800m) consist of volcaniclastic
breccias, conglomerates and tuffaceous rocks with lenses of massive
andesitic volcanic rocks. The basal unit (>600 m) is composed of
massive andesitic volcanic rocks, known locally as the Lower Andesites,
and albitized dacite domes that overlie these andesites in the eastern
par t of the district. The bedded rocks of the district are deformed by
a SE verging fold-thrust system known collectively as the Tierra Amarilla
Anticlinorium. Both the bedded sequence and the batholith are cut by
a dense set of NNW to NW striking high angle faults. Early to mid-
Cretaceous dioritic-granodioritic plutons of the Copiap Batholith intrude
the bedded rock sequence on the western edge of the district. The
contact methamorphic aureole around the intrusives averages 2.5 km
in the width. The known impor tant orebodies of the district, other than
the Candelaria deposit, are located just outside (to the east of) the
contact aureole.
Early metamorphic and metasomatic assemblages include garnet
skarns, developed after limestones of the Chaarcillo Group. Quar tz,
biotite and diopside scapolite hornfels and skarns formed after
volcaniclastic rocks in the upper par t of the underlying Punta del
Cobre Formation, and biotite-quar tz-magnetite alteration is pervasive
in the Lower Andesites of the Punta del Cobre Formation.
Chalcopyrite is one of the latest minerals in the paragenetic
sequence of the district. With rare exceptions, it crosscuts, and thus
post-dates, all of the metamorphic and metasomatic assemblages that
are clearly zoned outboard of the contact of the Copiap Batholith with
the bedded rocks. The most impor tant orebodies in the district are
encountered at the intersection of NNW to NW faults with the contact
between the volcaniclastic sediments or tuffs of the upper unit of the
Punta del Cobre Formation (Manto Horizon), and the underlying
dacite domes or Lower Andesites of the same formation. Roughly
stratabound lens-like bodies (mantos) of banded chalcopyrite-pyrite-
hematite are centered on these intersections at Punta del Cobre, whereas
at Candelaria, banded magnetite-amphibole-K-feldspar-pyrrhotite-pyrite-
chalcopyrite mineralization is present. Mineralization extends downward
from this level for about 300 m (). In this inter val, at Punta del
Cobre, mineralization takes the form of breccia bodies and veins
hosted in the dacite domes and in the Lower Andesites. Undelying
the high-grade manto at Candelaria are zones of widely spaced
stockworks veinlets, and breccia in fill of chalcopyrite-pyrite magnetite
quar tz anhydrite sphalerite minor calcite. Ore associated
alteration superimposed on early biotite-quar tz-magnetite alteration
of the Lower Andesites consists largely of actinolite K-feldspar or
albite biotite alteration. In the Punta del Cobre district, hematite
grades downward into magnetite in the breccias and veins, with common
textures of magnetite replacing and pseudomorphing hematite alteration
is predominantly albitization-chloritization carbonatization in the
upper levels, grading vertically (and locally laterally) into pervasive K-
feldspar-chlorite and/or biotite alteration at intermediate levels, with
fracture-controlled actinolite alteration superimposed on the early
pervasive biotite-quartz-magnetite alteration of the andesite wallrocks
in the deeper parts of the system. Late calcite specular hematite
Robert Marschik
MI NERALOGY DEPARTMENT UNI VERSI TY OF GENEVA
SWI TZERLAND
Richard A. Leveille - Robert Marschik
302
minor chalcopyrite in veins and breccia in-fill are found in both areas.
Within the contact metamorphic aureole of the batholith, copper
mineralization occurs as replacement bodies, open-space filling and
breccia in-fill in pyroxene-scapolite skarns formed after shaley beds
of the upper unit of the Punta del Cobre Formation and in garnet
skarns formed after Valanginian limestones of the Chaarcillo Group,
and as in-fill in early magnetite replacements of all pre-existing
lithologies. Veins and veinlets with iron-copper-gold mineralization
are fairly common cutting all rock units in the stratigraphic section,
par ticularly close to the batholith contact, as well as in the batholith
itself.
There is an increasing body of evidence from field mapping, core
logging, petrographic, geochemical, and geochronological studies that
iron oxide-copper-gold mineralization at Candelaria and in the Punta
del Cobre district is epigenetic, significantly post-dating the deposition
of the Lower Cretaceous host rocks. It was the culminating event in a
long history of thermal metamorphism and metasomatism related to
the intrusion of the Early to mid-Cretaceous Copiap Batholith. The
available data are consistent with ore fluids that contain a significant
magmatic component. However, the possibility that external fluids
(e.g., formation waters, basinal brines, etc.) circulating around the
cooling batholith were also involved in the alteration and mineralization
processes that formed the Candelaria Punta del Cobre iron oxide-
copper-gold deposits cannot be excluded.
I II IINTRODUCTION NTRODUCTION NTRODUCTION NTRODUCTION NTRODUCTION
Since the publication of Camus (1980), the origin of the iron
oxide-copper-gold deposits of the Punta del Cobre district (production
+ reser ves: approximately 120 Mt of 1.5% Cu, 0.2 to 0.6 g/t Au,
and 2 to 8 g/t Ag) near Copiap, Chile, has been the subject of lively
debate within the geological community of Chile. Based on the
exposures of strata-bound mantos and underlying stockworks/breccia
mineralization available in the mines of the district at that time, he
proposed that the orebodies were syngenetic submarine exhalative
deposits. Camus provocative model has been widely circulated in the
geological literature and continues to be tested and evaluated by
geologists who work in and visit the district, especially since the
discovery by Phelps Dodge, in 1986, of the Candelaria deposit. At
400 Mt of 1% Cu and 0.2 g/t Au, it is by far the most impor tant
orebody known in the Punta del Cobre district. Due to its complex
silicate mineralogy, strong stratigraphic control and structural setting,
it has, if anything, added fuel to the ongoing genetic controversy
surrounding the district deposits.
G GG GGEOLOGY EOLOGY EOLOGY EOLOGY EOLOGY OF OF OF OF OF THE THE THE THE THE D DD DDISTRICT ISTRICT ISTRICT ISTRICT ISTRICT
Stratified rocks of the Copiap Punta del Cobre district were
deposited in an Early Cretaceous back-arc basin. A transition between
the continental andesitic volcanic arc, represented by the Bandurrias
Formation, to the west and northwest, and shelf facies carbonate rocks
of the Chaarcillo Group, to the east and southeast, is preserved in this
par t of the basin. Underlying the Chaarcillo Group is the pre-Upper
Valanginian Punta del Cobre Formation, which has been divided into
two units. The upper unit consists of volcaniclastic sedimentary rocks +
tuffs with lenses of massive andesitic volcanic rocks, ranging from 30
to >800 m thick. The basal unit, known locally as the Lower Andesites,
is made up of greater than 600 m of massive andesite flows. In the
eastern par t of the district, albitized dacite domes (or hypabyssal
intrusives?) commonly occur at the contact between the upper and
lower units of the Punta del Cobre Formation. Early to Mid-Cretaceous
dioritic plutons (117 to 97 Ma) of the Copiap Batholith intrude the
bedded rocks on the western edge of the district. The contact aureole
of the plutonic complex in the intruded bedded rocks averages 2.5
km-wide (Tilling, 1962). The known impor tant orebodies of the
district, prior to the discovery of Candelaria in 1987, were located
just outside (to the east of) the contact aureole. The Candelaria
deposit, in contrast, is located just 1 km to the east of the contact of
the batholith, with the result that its host rocks have been subjected
to much more intense thermal metamorphism, metasomatism and
deformation.
The bedded rocks of the district are deformed by a SE verging
fold-thrust system known collectively as the Tierra Amarilla
Anticlinorium. Both the bedded sequence and the batholith are cut
by a dense set of NNW to NW striking high angle faults with evidence
of both strike-slip and dip-slip movements displacement. Near the
contact with the batholith, the upper par t of the Lower Andesites
and the Bandurrias Formation preserve evidence of low-angle ductile
shearing.
M MM MMET ET ET ET ETAM AM AM AM AMORPHI ORPHI ORPHI ORPHI ORPHISM SM SM SM SM, , , , , AL AL AL AL ALTERA TERA TERA TERA TERATI TI TI TI TION ON ON ON ON AND AND AND AND AND
M MM MMINERALIZA INERALIZA INERALIZA INERALIZA INERALIZATI TI TI TI TION ON ON ON ON
Within the contact aureole, limestones of the Chaarcillo Group
were conver ted into proximal garnet (+scapolite) skarns that zone
outward into marble. Shaley (tuffaceous?) beds intercalated with
limestones near the base of the Chaarcillo Group, and volcaniclastic
rocks in the upper par t of the underlying Punta del Cobre Formation
were converted into proximal pyroxene-scapolite skarns and/or biotite,
pyroxene and quar tz hornfels. Fur ther outboard from the contact,
these same units are characterized by albite-chlorite-epidote alteration
assemblage. The latter is focussed around the contact between the
upper volcaniclastic unit and Lower Andesites of the Punta del Cobre
Formation, and in the dacite domes that are found there. The Lower
Andesites are intensely biotite-quartz-magnetite altered, with this style
of alteration extending much fur ther to outboard (to the east) of the
intrusive contact than visible alteration in the overlying rocks. Local
areas of intense actinolitization overprint all rock types within the
contact zone.
It is impor tant to note that chalcopyrite mineralization is one of
the latest events recorded in the paragenetic sequence of the district.
CANDELARIA ANDTHE PUNTA DEL COBRE DISTRICCHILE: VMSOREPIGENETICHYDROTHERMAL DEPOSITS?
303
It cross-cuts, and thus post-dates, all of the major metamorphic and
metasomatic assemblages noted above that are clear zoned outboard
of the contact of the Copiap Batholith with the bedded rocks. The
most important orebodies in the district are controlled by the intersection
of NNW to NW faults with the contact between the basal volcaniclastic
sediments or tuffs of the upper unit of the Punta del Cobre Formation
(Manto Horizon), and the underlying dacite (?) domes or Lower
Andesites of the same Formation. Roughly stratabound lens-like bodies
(mantos) of banded chalcopyrite-hematite are centered on these
intersections at Punta del Cobre whereas at Candelaria, banded
magnetite-amphibole-k-feldspar-pyrrhotite-pyrite-chalcopyrite skarn is
present. These mantos were what originally inspired Camus (1980)
stratiform exhalative interpretation of mineralization. Mineralization
extends downward from this level for about 300 m (+). In this
inter val, at Punta del Cobre, mineralization takes the form of curious
molar shaped breccia bodies hosted in dacite domes or in the
Lower Andesites. The breccia bodies taper downwards into vein-like
roots. Underlying the high-grade manto at Candelaria are zones of
stockworks veinlets and breccia in-fill of chalcopyrite + magnetite +
pyrite + quar tz +/or calcite +/or anhydrite. Ore associated alteration
superimposed on early biotite-quar tz-magnetite alteration of the
Lower Andesites consists largely of actinolite + k-feldspar or albite
+ green biotite alteration. In the Punta del Cobre district, chalcopyrite-
hematite grades downward into chalcopyrite magnetite in the breccias
and veins, with common textures of magnetite replacing and
pseudomorphing hematite. Alteration is dominated by chloritization
and/or actinolitization of the previously biotite-quar tz-magnetite
altered andesite wallrocks.
Late calcite + specular hematite + minor chalcopyrite in veins and
breccia in-fill are common in both areas.
Exposures of mineralization that extended above the manto horizon
of the upper unit of the Punta del Cobre Formation were rare or non-
existent in the early 1980s, however with additional mine development
they have become more common. At the Carola mine, stockworks
chalcopyrite veins can be seen cutting above the manto into the overlying
green tuffaceous rocks. Within the contact aureole of the batholith
copper mineralization occurs as replacement bodies, open-space filling
and breccia in-fill in pyroxene-scapolite skarns formed after tuffaceous
to shaley beds of the upper unit of the Punta del Cobre Formation and
in garnet skarns formed after Valanginian limestones of the Chaarcillo
Group and in magnetite replacements of all pre-existing lithologies.
Veins and veinlets with copper oxides and sulfides that are geochemically
identical to mineralization in the underlying Lower Andesites, are fairly
common cutting all the way through the section into limestones of the
Chaarcillo Group as well.
G GG GGEOLOGICAL EOLOGICAL EOLOGICAL EOLOGICAL EOLOGICAL E EE EEVOLUTION VOLUTION VOLUTION VOLUTION VOLUTION
Ulrich (1996) used biotite-garnet Fe-Mg exchange geothermometry
to estimate a 500
o
-600
o
C temperature of formation for early (pre-
chalcopyrite) alteration in the tuffs at the base of the upper unit of the
Punta del Cobre Formation at Candelaria. Age dating (
40
Ar/
39
Ar
incremental heating) of biotite from the early biotite-magnetite-quartz
stage of alteration in Upper Andesites of the Punta del Cobre Formation
gave an inverse isochron age of 114.9+0.5 Ma, which is consistent a
whole-rock Rb-Sr isochron of 116.8+1.4 Ma based on four samples of
altered potassically altered andesite (Marschik et al., 1996). The same
study gave an age of 111.6+0.2 Ma (
40
Ar/
39
Ar total fusion, 2 samples)
for ore related hydrothermal biotite.
40
Ar/
39
Ar plateau ages for amphibole
(common with chalcopyrite veins) from Candelaria, reported by Ulrich
and Clark, 1998, were 111.7+0.8 Ma. K-Ar dates on biotite phases of
the neighboring Copiap Batholith give ages of between 119+3 Ma
and 108+3 Ma (Arvalo, 1996). This suggests that, at the very least,
the potassically-altered andesites of the Punta del Cobre Formation
were subjected to temperatures above the closure temperature for
argon in biotite at the same time biotites in the Copiap Batholith were
at similar temperatures, and suppor ts (though does not prove) the
hypothesis that batholith intrusion, alteration and were related
processes.
Pb isotopic analyses of samples of mineralization from the Pun-
ta del Cobre district, as well as from samples of the batholith, show
a very similar range of values, suggesting a common source of Pb for
both the sulfide mineralization and the batholith (Marschik, 1997).
S isotopes of sulfides fall into a range of 0.7 to +2.9%, compati-
ble with an igneous, to modified igneous, source for sulfur (Marschik,
1997). S isotope ratios for anhydrite are heavier at 17% (Marschik,
pers. comm.). Carbon and oxygen isotope values from calcite (Rabbia,
1996) are 8.7 to 9.4 % delC(PCB) and 15.4-15.9% del18O,
respectively.
Ulrich and Clark (1998) measured homogenization temperatures
for hypersaline fluid inclusions from quartz from Candelaria range from
>396
o
C to >202
o
C. Fluid inclusions in calcite, a paragenetically late
mineral in all of the district deposits, were also saline (25-40% NaCl
equiv
)
and homogenized at 125
o
to 175
o
C (Marschik et al., 1997a) and
175
o
C-236
o
C (Rabbia et al., 1996).
C CC CCONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS ONCLUSIONS
There is an increasing body of evidence from field mapping, core
logging, petrographic, geochemical and geochronological studies that
copper mineralization at Candelaria and in the Punta del Cobre district
is epigenetic, significantly post-dates the deposition of Lower Cretaceous
back-arc basin host-rocks. It was the culminating event in a long history
of thermal metamorphism and metasomatism related to the intrusion
of the 116-110 Ma Copiap Batholith. Early contact metamorphic
assemblages, Fe-K-Si and sodic alteration, within the 2.5 km wide
contact aureole of the batholith, are largely stratigraphically controlled.
Copper mineralization, and associated alteration is focussed on the
intersections of (generally) NNW to NW structures with the favorable
contact between the upper volcaniclastic unit of the Punta del Cobre
Formation and the underlying more massive Lower Andesites of the
same formation. Copper orebodies are found both inside and outside
Richard A. Leveille - Robert Marschik
304
of the contact aureole, and while also showing strong stratigraphic
control, they also transgress stratigraphy and earlier metamorphic/
alteration assemblages.
R RR RREFERENCES EFERENCES EFERENCES EFERENCES EFERENCES
Arvalo, C., 1996, Geology of the Copiap Area (27-28S; 7000-
7030W), Atacama Region, Chile: Repor t prepared for C.C. Minera
Candelaria, 16p.
Camus, F., 1980, Posible modelo gentico para los yacimientos de cobre
del distrito minero Punta del Cobre: Revista Geolgica de Chile, v. 12,
p. 51-76.
Marschik, R., 1996, Cretaceous Cu(-Fe) mineralization in the Punta del
Cobre belt, nor thern Chile: Terre & Environment, Univesitede Genve,
v. 5, 200 p.
Marschik, R., Singer, B.S., Munizaga, F., Tasssarini, C., and Fontbote, L.,
1996, Age of Cu(-Fe) mineralization and Cretaceous to Paleocene
thermal evolution of the Punta del Cobre district, northern Chile: in
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Anais, v. 7, p. 306-309.
Marschik, R., 1997, Intrusion related Cu(-Fe)-Au mineralization of the
Punta del Cobre belt, Chile: Lead and sulfur isotope constraints: in H.
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they meet? Balkema, Rotterdam, p.655-658.
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W.E. and Urqueta, I., 1995, The Candelaria copper-gold deposit, Chile:
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American Cordillera, Arizona Geological Society Digest 20, 625-645.
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the Paipote-Tierra Amarilla area, Atacama Province, Chile: Yale University,
unpub. Ph.D. thesis, 202 p.