Mineralium Deposita

, Volume 38, Issue 7, pp 787–812

Iron oxide-copper-gold deposits: an Andean view


DOI: 10.1007/s00126-003-0379-7

Cite this article as:
Sillitoe, R.H. Miner Deposita (2003) 38: 787. doi:10.1007/s00126-003-0379-7


Iron oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) deposits, defined primarily by their elevated magnetite and/or hematite contents, constitute a broad, ill-defined clan related to a variety of tectono-magmatic settings. The youngest and, therefore, most readily understandable IOCG belt is located in the Coastal Cordillera of northern Chile and southern Peru, where it is part of a volcano-plutonic arc of Jurassic through Early Cretaceous age. The arc is characterised by voluminous tholeiitic to calc-alkaline plutonic complexes of gabbro through granodiorite composition and primitive, mantle-derived parentage. Major arc-parallel fault systems developed in response to extension and transtension induced by subduction roll-back at the retreating convergent margin. The arc crust was attenuated and subjected to high heat flow. IOCG deposits share the arc with massive magnetite deposits, the copper-deficient end-members of the IOCG clan, as well as with manto-type copper and small porphyry copper deposits to create a distinctive metallogenic signature.

The IOCG deposits display close relations to the plutonic complexes and broadly coeval fault systems. Based on deposit morphology and dictated in part by lithological and structural parameters, they can be separated into several styles: veins, hydrothermal breccias, replacement mantos, calcic skarns and composite deposits that combine all or many of the preceding types. The vein deposits tend to be hosted by intrusive rocks, especially equigranular gabbrodiorite and diorite, whereas the larger, composite deposits (e.g. Candelaria-Punta del Cobre) occur within volcano-sedimentary sequences up to 2 km from pluton contacts and in intimate association with major orogen-parallel fault systems. Structurally localised IOCG deposits normally share faults and fractures with pre-mineral mafic dykes, many of dioritic composition, thereby further emphasising the close connection with mafic magmatism. The deposits formed in association with sodic, calcic and potassic alteration, either alone or in some combination, reveal evidence of an upward and outward zonation from magnetite-actinolite-apatite to specular hematite-chlorite-sericite and possess a Cu-Au-Co-Ni-As-Mo-U-(LREE) (light rare earth element) signature reminiscent of some calcic iron skarns around diorite intrusions. Scant observations suggest that massive calcite veins and, at shallower palaeodepths, extensive zones of barren pyritic feldspar-destructive alteration may be indicators of concealed IOCG deposits.

The balance of evidence strongly supports a genetic connection of the central Andean IOCG deposits with gabbrodiorite to diorite magmas from which the ore fluid may have been channelled by major ductile to brittle fault systems for several kilometres vertically or perhaps even laterally. The large, composite IOCG deposits originated by ingress of the ore fluid to relatively permeable volcano-sedimentary sequences. The mafic magma may form entire plutons or, alternatively, may underplate more felsic intrusions, as witnessed by the ore-related diorite dykes, but in either case the origin of the ore fluid at greater, unobserved depths may be inferred. It is concluded that external 'basinal' fluids were not a requirement for IOCG formation in the central Andes, although metamorphic, seawater, evaporitic or meteoric fluids may have fortuitously contaminated the magmatic ore fluid locally. The proposed linkage of central Andean and probably some other IOCG deposits to oxidised dioritic magmas may be compared with the well-documented dependency of several other magmatic-hydrothermal deposit types on igneous petrochemistry. The affiliation of a spectrum of base-metal poor gold-(Bi-W-Mo) deposit styles to relatively reduced monzogranite-granodiorite intrusions may be considered as a closely analogous example.


Iron oxide-copper-gold deposits Metallogeny Central Andes Diorite Extensional tectonics Volcano-plutonic arcs 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.London N6 6NDUK