Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 116, Issue 1–2, pp 199–215 | Cite as

Hydrothermal alteration and mass exchange in the hornblende latite porphyry, Rico, Colorado

  • Peter B. Larson
  • Charles G. Cunningham
  • Charles W. Naeser


The Rico paleothermal anomaly, southwestern Colorado, records the effects of a large hydrothermal system that was active at 4 Ma. This hydrothermal system produced the deep Silver Creek stockwork Mo deposit, which formed above the anomaly's heat source, and shallower base and precious-metal vein and replacement deposits. A 65 Ma hornblende latite porphyry is present as widespread sills throughout the area and provided a homogenous material that recorded the effects of the hydrothermal system up to 8 km from the center. Hydrothermal alteration in the latite can be divided into a proximal facies which consists of two assemblages, quartz-illite-calcite and chlorite-epidote, and a distal facies which consists of a distinct propylitic assemblage. Temperatures were gradational vertically and laterally in the anomaly, and decreased away from the centra heat source. A convective hydrothermal plume, 3 km wide and at least 2 km high, was present above the stock-work molybdenum deposit and consisted of upwelling, high-temperature fluids that produced the proximal alteration facies. Distal facies alteration was produced by shallower cooler fluids. The most important shallow base and precious-metal vein deposits in the Rico district are at or close to the boundary of the thermal plume. Latite within the plume had a large loss of Na2O, large addition of CaO, and variable SiO2 exchante. Distal propylitized latite samples lost small amounts of Na2O and CaO and exchanged minor variable amounts of SiO2. The edge of the plume is marked by steep Na2O exchange gradients. Na2O exchange throughout the paleothermal anomaly was controlled by the reaction of the albite components in primary plagioclase and alkali feldspars. Initial feldspar alteration in the distal facies was dominated by reaction of the plagioclase, and the initial molar ratio of reactants (alkali feldspar albite component to plagioclase albite component) was 0.35. This ratio of the moles of plagioclase to alkali feldspar albite components that reacted evolved to 0.92 as the reaction progressed. Much of the alkali feldspar albite component in the proximal facies reacted while the, primary plagioclase was still unreacted, but the ratio for these assemblages increased to 1.51 when the plagioclase entered the reaction paragenesis. Plagioclase reaction during distal propylitic alteration resulted in pseudomorphic albite mixed with illite and a loss of Na2O. CaO is lost in the distal facies as hornblende reacts to chlorite, although some calcium may be fixed in calcite. CaO is added to the proximal facies as the quantity of chlorite replacing hornblende increases and epidote and calcite are produced.


Chlorite Hydrothermal System Hydrothermal Alteration Thermal Plume Initial Molar Ratio 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter B. Larson
    • 1
  • Charles G. Cunningham
    • 2
  • Charles W. Naeser
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeologyWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  2. 2.United States Geological Survey959 National CenterRestonUSA
  3. 3.Denver Federal CenterUnited States Geological Survey, MS 963DenverUSA

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