The Donoso copper-rich, tourmaline-bearing breccia pipe in central Chile: petrologic, fluid inclusion and stable isotope evidence for an origin from magmatic fluids
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The copper-rich, tourmaline-bearing Donoso breccia pipe is one among more than 15 different mineralized breccias in the giant (>50 million metric tonnes of copper) Miocene and Pliocene Río Blanco-Los Bronces copper deposit in the high Andes of central Chile. This breccia pipe, bracketed in age between 5.2 and 4.9 Ma, has dimensions of 500 by 700 m at the current surface 3,670 m above sea level. Its roots have yet to be encountered, and it is >300 m in diameter at the depth of the deepest drill holes. The Donoso breccia is, for the most part, monolithic, containing clasts of the equigranular quartz monzonite pluton which hosts the pipe. It is matrix supported, with between 5 and 25% of the total rock volume consisting of breccia-matrix minerals, which include tourmaline, quartz, chalcopyrite, pyrite, specularite, and lesser amounts of bornite and anhydrite. An open pit mine, centered on this breccia pipe, has a current production of 50,000 tonnes of ore per day at an average grade of 1.2% copper, and copper grade in the breccia matrix is significantly higher. Measured δ18O for tourmaline and quartz from the matrix of the Donoso breccia at different levels of the pipe range from +6.9 to +12.0‰, and measured δD in tourmaline ranges from –73 to –95‰. Temperatures of crystallization of these minerals, as determined by the highest homogenization temperatures of highly saline fluid inclusions, range from 400 to >690°C. When corrected for these temperatures, the stable isotope data indicate that fluids from which these breccia-matrix minerals precipitated were magmatic, with δ18O between +5.6 to +9.1‰ and δD between –51 to –80‰. These isotopic data preclude participation of a significant amount of meteoric water in the formation of the Donoso breccia. They support a model in which brecciation is caused by expansion of magmatic fluids exsolved from a cooling pluton, and breccia-matrix minerals, including copper sulfides, precipitated from the same magmatic fluids responsible for brecciation. Sericitic alteration of clasts in the breccia was also caused by these magmatic fluids. Different types of fluid inclusions imply that several different magmatic fluids were involved in formation of the Donoso breccia. These include high-temperature, highly saline, non-boiling fluids, trapped in inclusions that homogenize by halite dissolution, which probably exsolved from a magma cooling under relatively high (>1 kbar) lithostatic pressure conditions, consistent with geologic constraints. Other high-temperature, highly saline fluids are trapped in inclusions that homogenize by vapor-bubble disappearance and are spatially associated with vapor-rich inclusions, suggesting either phase separation (boiling) or simultaneous separation of immiscible brine and vapor from a magma cooling at lower hydrostatic pressure conditions. Both types of high-temperature, highly saline fluids circulated intermittently, as pressure fluctuated between lithostatic and hydrostatic conditions because of episodes of sealing and rebrecciation.
KeywordsAndes Breccia Chile Copper Tourmaline
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