Porphyry Gold Deposits of the Refugio District, Maricunga Belt, Northern Chile

      The porphyry gold deposits of the Refugio district and similar deposits in the Maricunga belt contain the lowest known copper to gold ratios (% Cu/ppm Au = ~0.03) of any porphyry-type deposit. The gold deposits are associated with subvolcanic andesitic to dacitic intrusions emplaced into coeval volcanic rocks. Both the Verde and Pancho deposits are zoned in space from a deeper zone of banded quartz veinlets associated with chlorite-magnetite-albite and/or pyrite-albite-clay alteration to a shallow zone of pyrite-albite-clay and local quartz-alunite ledges. Pancho contains an additional, deepest, porphyry copperlike zone, with quartz veinlets (A-veinlets) and potassic alteration. Relative to Verde, Pancho is telescoped, with all three zones present within a 400-m-vertical interval.
   The porphyry copperlike zone at Pancho is characterized by A-veinlets and pervasive potassic alteration, both restricted to intrusive rocks. A-veinlets range from hairline streaks of magnetite ? biotite with minor quartz and chalcopyrite, and K feldspar alteration envelopes to sugary quartz veinlets <1 cm in width with magnetite and chalcopyrite and no alteration envelopes. Hypersaline liquid inclusions coexisting with vapor-rich inclusions indicate temperatures above 600?C and salinities as high as 84 wt percent NaCl equiv. A pressure estimate of 250 bars indicates a depth of 1,000 m, assuming lithostatic pressure. Potassic alteration consists of a central zone of magnetite-K feldspar-oligoclase that changes outward to a biotite-rich zone. Total sulfide content, predominately as chalcopyrite, is generally <1 vol percent, whereas magnetite content is 2 to 5 percent. Where A-veinlets and potassic alteration predominate, grades are typically 0.1 wt percent hypogene copper and 0.5 to 1 ppm gold.
   Banded quartz veinlets are present at both Verde and Pancho, where they occur mostly above A-veinlets and cut A-veinlets where they overlap. They are less than 2 cm in thickness and lack alteration envelopes. Dark gray bands, whose color is due to abundant vapor-rich fluid inclusions and micrometer-sized grains of magnetite, commonly occur as symmetric pairs near the vein walls. The bands are commonly botryoidal and are continuous through quartz grains, suggesting that the quartz recrystallized from a silica gel. Rare liquid-rich fluid inclusions in quartz indicate temperatures <350?C and salinities <35 wt percent NaCl equiv. Estimated pressures are <200 bars, suggesting depths of 190 to 1,500 m under hydrostatic pressure. Gold occurs both in the dark bands with magnetite and outside the dark bands with pyrite, chlorite, illite, and K feldspar. Banded veinlets occupy steeply dipping radial and shallowly dipping concentric fractures. Zones of abundant banded veinlets without early A-veinlets generally contain 0.5 to 2 ppm gold and <0.05 wt percent hypogene copper.
   Most of the differences between porphyry gold deposits at Refugio and porphyry copper deposits can be attributed to shallower depths of formation?less than 1 km compared to 1.5 to 4 km that is typical for porphyry copper deposits. Shallower depths resulted in lower sulfide concentrations, local garnet veinlets, widespread albite-bearing alteration, and most importantly banded quartz veinlets, which are unique to porphyry gold deposits. Banded quartz veinlets are a direct result of episodic intrusion of magma to within 1 km of the surface and exposure of high-temperature magmatic fluids to hydrostatic pressures. Episodic rupturing of a brittle-ductile boundary surrounding the intrusive centers at Verde and Pancho led to flashing of magmatic fluids, loss of sulfur to vapor, and low sulfide/gold ratios in ore.

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