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Sulfide mineralization associated with arc magmatism in the Qilian Block, western China: zircon U-Pb age and Sr-Nd-Os-S isotope constraints from the Yulonggou and Yaqu gabbroic intrusions

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Abstract

The sulfide-bearing Yulonggou and Yaqu mafic intrusions are located in the southern margin of the Qilian Block, Qinghai Province, western China. They are small dike-like bodies mainly composed of gabbros and diorites. Disseminated sulfides (pyrrhotite, pentlandite, and chalcopyrite) are present as concordant lenses within the intrusions. Precise CA-ID-TIMS zircon U-Pb dating yields the crystallization ages of 443.39 ± 0.42 and 440.74 ± 0.33 Ma for the Yulonggou and Yaqu intrusions, respectively. Whole rock samples from both intrusions show light rare earth element (REE) enrichments relative to heavy REE and pronounced negative Nb-Ta anomalies relative to Th and La, which are consistent with the products of arc basaltic magmatism. The Yulonggou intrusion has negative ε Nd values from −5.7 to −7.7 and elevated (87Sr/86Sr) i ratios from 0.711 to 0.714. In contrast, the Yaqu intrusion has higher ε Nd values from −4.1 to +8.4 and lower (87Sr/86Sr) i ratios from 0.705 to 0.710. The δ34S values of sulfide separates from the Yulonggou and Yaqu deposits vary from 0.8 to 2.4 ‰ and from 2 to 4.3 ‰, respectively. The γ Os values of sulfide separates from the Yulonggou and Yaqu deposits vary between 80 and 123 and between 963 and 1,191, respectively. Higher γ Os values coupled with higher δ34S values for the Yaqu deposit relative to the Yulonggou deposit indicate that external sulfur played a bigger role in sulfide mineralization in the Yaqu intrusion than in the Yulonggou intrusion. Mixing calculations using Sr-Nd isotope data show that contamination with siliceous crustal materials is more pronounced in the Yulonggou intrusion (up to 20 wt%) than in the Yaqu intrusion (<15 wt%). The distribution of sulfides in both intrusions is consistent with multiple emplacements of sulfide-saturated magmas from depth. The Yulonggou and Yaqu sulfide deposits are not economically valuable under current market condition due to small sizes and low Ni grades, which can be explained by late-stage sulfide saturation after extensive olivine fractional crystallization from the magmas. Based on these observations, we suggest a shift of focus for Ni exploration in the region from mafic/gabbroic intrusions to olivine-rich ultramafic intrusions.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Yalei Wang, Jiangwei Zhang, Kan Li, Zhouping Guo, and Bing Qian for field assistance, sample preparation, and drawing. Constructive reviews from two anonymous reviewers and editorial inputs from the editor and associate editor are appreciated. This study was financially supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (grant 41102050) and China Geological Survey (grants 1212010918024, 1212011121092, and 1212011121088).

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Correspondence to Wen-Yuan Li.

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Editorial handling: B. Lehmann

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Zhang, ZW., Li, WY., Gao, YB. et al. Sulfide mineralization associated with arc magmatism in the Qilian Block, western China: zircon U-Pb age and Sr-Nd-Os-S isotope constraints from the Yulonggou and Yaqu gabbroic intrusions. Miner Deposita 49, 279–292 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-013-0488-x

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