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Hydrothermal alteration and rock geochemistry at the Berg porphyry copper-molybdenum deposit, north-central British Columbia Heberlein, David Rudi


In recent years our understanding of the genesis of porphyry copper systems has advanced to a sufficient level to be able to construct predictive models that enhance exploration for these deposits. Our understanding of primary and secondary geochemical dispersion around these deposits is not so advanced as variables such as climate and topography cause geochemical patterns to be distorted or masked at surface with the result of different deposits having quite different geochemical characteristics. In this study the geology and geochemistry of a porphyry copper-molybdenum from the Canadian Cordillera is examined with the aim of demonstrating how primary geochemical patterns are affected by the development of a supergene enrichment blanket and leached capping. Topographic controls on the extent of leaching and supergene enrichment are also explored. The Berg porphyry copper-molybdenum deposit is in the Tahtsa Mountain Ranges, approximately 84 km southwest of Houston, central British Columbia. Mineralized zones are centered on a circa 50 Ma composite quartz monzonite stock. Hydrothermal alteration zones are similar to those of the classic model by Lowell and Guilbert. Central zones are potassic (orthoclase and biotite) while peripheral zones are propylitic (chlorite, epidote, carbonate). Intense phyllic alteration (quartz, sericite, pyrite) occurs at the north and south margins of the stock. Hypogene mineralization (characterized by pyrite, chalcopyrite and molybdenite) is concentrated in an annular zone straddling the quartz monzonite contact. Best grades are localized in altered quartz diorite and altered and hornfelsed Telkwa Formation (Hazelton Group) volcanic rocks at the east side of the deposit. The nature of these altered hornfelsed rocks has been a subject for much debate in previous studies. One school of thought suggests that they are part of a hornfels aureole associated with the quartz diorite. Others suggest that it is an alteration zone associated with the quartz monzonite stock. Thirteen diamond drill holes on a north south cross section of the deposit were logged (GEOLOG) and sampled. Outcrop samples were collected where possible close to each drill hole. Major elements were determined by XRF, trace metals by flame AAS and fluorine by specific ion electrode. A sequential extraction was used to study the distribution of copper between different host minerals. The origin of the hornfelsed rocks is solved by field mapping and geochemistry. In the field cross cutting relationships show that the quartz diorite predates the stock and that the hornfels zone is spacially related to it. Major element binary and ternary plots demonstrate that significant amounts of potassium have been added to these rocks in the mineralized zone. This implies that biotite alteration was superimposed onto an earlier hornfels. Trace metal data was partitioned into anomalous and background populations with probability graphs. In the hypogene zone Cu, Mo and Ag occur in an annular zone corresponding with the mineralogically defined potential ore zones. Fluorine is anomalous over the area of the potassic alteration zone. Lead and zinc are anomalous in peripheral haloes around the potential orebodies. These zones can be traced to surface through an extensive supergene enrichment blanket and leached capping. Three zones of supergene mineralization are recognized: supergene sulphide (covellite, digenite, chalcocite), supergene oxide (malachite/azurite, cuprite, tenorite, native Cu) and leached capping. Sulphides are the dominant host for Cu throughout most of the deposit but locally on steep slopes where supergene oxide is developed Cu is hosted in carbonate and oxide minerals. Enrichment or depletion of elements in the supergene is demonstrated with interelement ratios. Enrichment factors can be derived in two ways: a) by ratioing supergene values to hypogene values, or, b) by ratioing to a constant (e.g. TiO₂ ) for each zone and then ratioing this value between zones. Enrichment factors of <1 therefore imply depletion and >1, enrichment (1=hypogene grade). Results show that all elements (studied) are enriched in the supergene sulphide and oxide zones. In the leached cap Cu, Mn and Zn are depleted while Mo, Pb and Ag are significantly enriched. These elements are incorporated into immobile limonite mineral's (ferrimolybdite, jarosite, goethite etc.).

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