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doi: 10.1111/j.1751-3928.2010.00149.x Resource Geology Vol. 61, No.

1: 7690

Original Article rge_149 76..90

Alteration Geochemistry of Volcanic Rocks around


Sarcheshmeh Porphyry Copper Deposit, Rafsanjan,
Kerman, Iran: Implications for Regional Exploration

Alijan Aftabi1 and Habibeh Atapour2


1
Department of Geology, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman and 2Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration of Iran,
Kerman, Iran

Abstract
To discriminate the mineral potentiality of the trachybasalt around the Miocene Sarcheshmeh porphyry copper
deposit, petrogeochemical characteristics of more than 45 samples of the volcanic rocks were studied.
Sarcheshmeh is one of the worlds largest Miocene porphyry copper deposits in a continental arc setting and
contains about 1200 million tonnes of ores with an average grade of 1.2 percent copper, 0.03 percent molyb-
denum, 3.9 g/t Ag and 0.11 g/t Au. The biotized and sericitized trachybasalts around the Sarcheshmeh deposit
are associated with chalcopyrite, pyrite and molybdenite and and are enriched in Cu (>3108 ppm), K2O
(>4.2%), Rb (>155 ppm) and MgO (>2.9%), but depleted in yttrium (<11 ppm), MnO (<0.06%), CaO (<0.6%),
Na2O (<0.33%), Sr (<107 ppm), and Ba (<181 ppm). The propylitized trachybasalts are enriched in CaO (>9.1%),
Na2O (>3.2%), MnO (>0.24%), Y (>18.2 ppm), and Ba (>323 ppm). The results demonstrate that the diagrams of
loss on ignition - Cu, Cu - Y, K2O/K2O + Na2O + CaO - Cu and Y - MnO may be used as an exploration guide
for undiscovered porphyry copper mineralization in the Central Iranian volcanoplutonic copper belt.
Keywords: alteration geochemistry, discrimination diagrams, regional exploration guides, sarcheshmeh por-
phyry copper, trachybasalt.

1. Introduction genic studies, yet diagnostic criteria for prospecting


and predicting mineralization are scarce (Helgeson,
Sequential wallrock alteration and geochemical 1970; Hollister, 1974; Warren et al., 1974; Kesler et al.,
anomalies of mobile elements in volcanic rocks around 1975; Chaffee, 1976; Olade & Fletcher, 1976; Armbrus
porphyry copper deposits are more widespread than et al., 1977; Mason & Feiss, 1979; Baldwin & Pearce,
the mineralized areas and thus become a possible indi- 1982). The previous discrimination attempts for explo-
cation of the deposits (Boyle, 1974; Olade & Fletcher, ration have used bar graphs and a YMnO diagram in
1976; Hedenquist & Richards, 1998; Watanabe & both intrusive and volcanic rocks (Baldwin & Pearce,
Hedenquist, 2001; Sillitoe & Perello, 2005; Seedorff 1982). However, the results have met with mixed
et al., 2005). Understanding of the geochemical dis- success and overlapping of the elements, in particular
crimination between altered and fresh volcanic rocks copper values in mineralized (altered) and nonminer-
in porphyry copper deposits is essential to mineral alized (fresh) samples. The Sarcheshmeh porphyry
exploration, regional resource appraisal, and metallo- copper deposit is located in Central Iran, and is one of

Received 18 September 2008. Accepted for publication 7 August 2010.


Corresponding author: A. AFTABI, Department of Geology, Shahid Bahonar University of Kerman, P.O.Box 76135-133, Kerman, Iran.
Email: aftabi@mail.uk.ac.ir

2010 The Authors


76 Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology
Geochemistry around Sarcheshmeh porphyry Copper

the worlds largest Miocene porphyry copper deposits


of continental arc setting. The orebody contains about
1200 million tonnes ore with an average of 1.2 percent
copper, 0.03 percent molybdenum, 3.9 g/t Ag and
0.11 g/t Au (Waterman & Hamilton, 1975; Ellis, 1991;
McInnes et al., 2005).
This investigation presents geochemical data of
altered and fresh volcanic rocks around the Sarchesh-
meh porphyry copper deposit, in which more than 50
percent of the copper ore occurs in altered trachybasalt
(Waterman & Hamilton, 1975). Despite the large
volume of research on the alteration zones around por-
phyry deposits, this study discriminates the geochemi-
cal signatures of altered and fresh volcanic rocks for
further regional exploration targets that have not been
recognized yet.

2. Tectonic setting
The Central Iranian volcanicplutonic arc contains vol-
canic rocks of basic to intermediate calc-alkaline or
shoshonitic character of Eocene age (Aftabi & Atapour,
2000; Atapour & Aftabi, 2007). The arc extends over Fig. 1 Map of Iran, showing the volcano-plutonic mag-
500 km, and 40 to 50 km wide (Fig. 1). This arc includes matic arc and Sarcheshmeh porphyry copper deposit
(modied after Aghanabati, 1986; Aftabi & Atapour,
some porphyry copper deposits, represented by
2000).
Sarcheshmeh (Fig. 1) (Atapour & Aftabi, 2007). The
porphyry mineralization of the arc is divided into two
phases. The rst phase deposits are related to plutonic
rocks of Miocene age that intruded into the Eocene deposit (Fig. 2 and Table 1). The main Eocene volcanic
volcanic rocks. The second phase deposits are related rocks in the area are trachybasalt and trachyandesite,
to porphyry diorite and quartz diorite of Miocene which host the Miocene quartz diorite, granodiorite
Pliocene age in dacitic and rhyodacitic volcanic rocks and quartz monzonite. The copper- molybdenum min-
(Aftabi, 2003; Atapour, 2007; Aftabi & Atapour, 2009). eralization and associated alteration occur both in tra-
The porphyry copper mineralization occurs mainly in chybasalt and in the porphyry stock of quartz
apical parts of intrusive rocks and rarely in the volcanic monzonite (Ghorashizadeh, 1978; Atapour & Aftabi,
host rocks. Polymetallic vein mineralization is recog- 2007). The alteration zone covers an area of more than
nized less commonly in the intrusive rocks, but fre- 2 km2 (Nedimovic, 1973). There are several generation
quently in the surrounding sheared and faulted of porphyry dikes that intrude the volcanic and intru-
volcanic rocks (Atapour, 2007). The surcial alteration sive rocks (Table 1).
zones (e.g. propylitic, sericitic and potassic) around the
deposits range from 115 km2 and occur along the con- 4. Samples and analytical procedures
tacts between the volcanic and intrusive rocks (Nedi-
movic, 1973). To investigate the geochemistry of altered and fresh
rocks, more than 45 samples each of weight 1 to 2 kg
3. Geologic setting were collected. This study excludes the rocks with
supergene alteration or weathering, because supergene
The Sarcheshmeh deposit is situated at 2958N and and weathering cause signicant modication in
5551E and about 160 km southwest of Kerman city chemical composition. The sample interval was gener-
(Fig. 1). The Miocene porphyritic granitoid, consisting ally 0.2 to 1 km (Fig. 2). Major oxides, Sr, Rb, Zr, Y, Ba,
of diorite, quartz diorite, granodiorite, and quartz Nb, Ta, Th, and U contents were analyzed by X-ray
monzonite are distributed near the Sarcheshmeh uorescence spectrometer (XRF) and Cu, V, Cr, Co and

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Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology 77
A. Aftabi and H. Atapour

Fig. 2 Geological map around the


Sarcheshmeh porphyry copper
deposit (modied after Nedi-
movic, 1973). AB is an approxi-
mate geotraverse shown on
Figure 6. Also the approximate
position of the Figure 6 (open pit)
is shown as an ellipse.

Table 1 Pulses and sequence of magmatichydrothermal events at the Sarcheshmeh porphyry copper deposit (Ghora-
shizadeh, 1978; Aftabi, 2003; Atapour, 2007; Aftabi & Atapour, 2009)
Pulses of events Rock types Age (Ma)
Sarcheshmeh Hot spring Travertine and calcareous terraces or onyx marble (P10) <2
complex Post-mineral volcanic pulse Late dacite and ignimbrite of adakitic afnity (P9) 2.8
Biotite porphyry dike of adakitic afnity (P8) 9.3
Early dacite of adakitic afnity (P7) 10.2
Syn-mineral intrusive pulse Feldspar porphyry dike (P6) 1210.2
Hornblende porphyry dike (P5) 12
Late porphyry plug (P4) 12.1
Mineralized quartz monzonite and granodiorite of potassic 15.512.1
afnity (P3)
Quartz diorite and monzodiorite stock (P2) 29
Pre-mineral volcanic Pulse Trachybasalt and trachyandesite with potassic afnity (P1) 4937

Ni contents were determined by atomic absorption at 5. Mineralogy, petrography


the Geological Survey of Iran. Ferrous iron contents and geochemistry
were determined by KMnO4 titration. The loss on igni-
tion (L.O.I) was calculated by heating the oven dried The results of petrography of the volcanic and
(110C) powdered samples at about 1100C in a intrusive rocks are shown in Table 2. The fresh trachy-
furnace for an hour, and measuring the weight loss as basalts contain labradorite phenocrysts (520%),
weight percent. microlitic plagioclase of andesine composition (30%),

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78 Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology
Geochemistry around Sarcheshmeh porphyry Copper

Table 2 Pragenesis of the volcanic and intrusive rocks around the Sarcheshmeh porphyry copper deposit
Minerals Trachybasalt Trachyandesite Quartz diorite and quartz monzonite
Fresh Altered Fresh Altered
Olivine
Clinopyroxene
Plagioclase
Hornblende ----------- ----------- -----------
Biotite ----------- PB PB
Orthoclase P P
Anorthoclase
Sericite B S BS
Chlorite Pr - - - - - - - - - - - Pr
Epidote Pr
Zeolite Pr
Clay minerals A ----------- A
Quartz B SP S
Apatite ----------- ----------- ----------- -----------
Pyrite PBS PBS
Chalcopyrite PBS PBS
Molybdenite PBS PBS
Calcite - - - - - - - - - - - Pr - - - - - - - - - - - Pr
Oligoclase - - - - - - - - - - - Pr ----------- - - - - - - - - - - - Pr
Magnetite ----------- PBS PBS
Iddingsite - - - - - - - - - - - Pr

- - - -: Rare, : Frequent, P: Potassic, B: biotized, S: sericitized or phyllic, Pr: propylitic-zeolitic, A: argillic. The line P B S indicates
zonation from potassic to biotitic and sericitic.

diopsideaugite clinopyroxene phenocrysts (20%), enriched in propylitized volcanic rocks. MnO value in
alkali feldspar (10%) and minor amounts of olivine propylitized trachybasalt is higher than that of the
(2%) in a glassy to ne-grained groundmass (20%). fresh volcanic rocks, whereas copper value is highly
Due to the ne-grained trachytic texture of the rocks, enriched in altered volcanic rocks. The K2O/K2O +
the precise modal mineralogical composition is not Na2O + CaO and A12O3/K2O + Na2O + CaO ratios of
available. The presence of olivine, labradorite and cli- propylitized trachybasalt is lower than those of the
nopyroxene, and the absence of quartz with a trachytic fresh one (Table 3). The values for MnO, Sr and Ba are
texture show a mineralogical composition close to tra- higher in propylitized volcanic rocks than other types
chybasalt. The microprobe analyses of unzonned pla- of altered rocks.
gioclases in the fresh volcanic rocks give a composition
of An 65 (Etminan, 1977), which is typical of trachyba- 6. Alteration and mineralization
salt and basalt (Hyndman, 1972) rather than andesite.
Some volcanic rocks lack in olivine but contain more The alteration and associated mineralization is com-
clinopyroxene, suggesting a characteristic of tra- posed of disseminated and stockwork pyrite, chal-
chyandesite. The geochemical composition of the vol- copyrite, molybdenite and quartz that is summarized
canic rocks (Table 3 and Appendix Table A1), indicates in Table 2 and as follows (Jacobsen, 1975; Waterman &
that the average composition of the fresh volcanic rocks Hamilton, 1975; Ghorashizadeh, 1978; Shahabpour,
at Sarcheshmeh is similar to trachybasalt or tra- 1982; Atapour & Aftabi, 2007). Figure 4 shows the
chyandesite reported by Le Maitre et al. (1989). The details of geology and alteration zones from the center
Sr/Y ratios (2021) of the fresh Eocene volcanic and outward at the Sarcheshmeh deposit. The alteration
Miocene intrusive rocks are far from adakitic rocks patterns are similar to those of typical continental arc
(Atapour, 2007; Aftabi & Atapour, 2009). The fresh porphyry copper deposits worldwide.
Eocene volcanic rocks are of continental arc and shos-
honitic afnity (Fig. 3a,b). In altered volcanic rocks, 6.1 Potassic alteration
SiO2, K2O and L.O.I (Table 3) values are higher than The potassic and/or biotitic alteration occurs in the
those of the fresh rocks. However, CaO value is only inner zone of the orebody at Sarcheshmeh and is

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Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology 79
A. Aftabi and H. Atapour

Table 3 Average composition of the fresh and altered volcanic rocks around the Sarcheshmeh deposit. Major elements
(wt %) and minor elements (ppm)
Fresh rocks (12 samples) Altered rocks (18 samples)
Elements Trachybasalt Trachyandesite Biotized Sericitized Propylitized
(7 samples) (5 samples) trachybasalt trachybasalt trachybasalt
(4 samples) (8 samples) (6 samples)
SiO2 49.4 55.66 51.35 51.81 52.5
TiO2 1.12 0.86 1.1 1.17 1.07
A12O3 17.73 17.7 18.17 18.22 15.94
Fe2O3 3.35 2.7 3.6 4.3 4.6
FeO 6.25 4.56 6.14 7.4 5.1
MnO 0.18 0.14 0.055 0.07 0.25
MgO 5.45 2.66 7.32 2.9 3.45
CaO 8.12 5.98 0.71 0.61 9.4
Na2O 3.24 3.68 0.7 0.33 3.2
K2O 1.96 3.16 4.35 4.88 0.99
P 2 O5 0.44 0.51 0.27 0.26 0.33
L.O.I 1.66 1.64 6.63 8.73 3.73
Cu 32.28 32 3702 3108.75 166.83
V 218.42 136.8 261.2 144.87 227
Cr 50.28 44.4 54 36.75 25.83
Co 29.14 14.4 20.25 14 10.33
Ni 60.28 22.8 42.75 35.37 19.5
Rb 106.71 104.8 195 155.87 68.16
Sr 514.5 484.2 107.25 57 251.83
Y 23.66 23.8 12.5 10.87 18.16
Zr 132.85 121.4 128.5 137.5 141.83
Nb 5.42 7 7 4.12 6.1
Ba 335.14 789.2 181.2 135.5 323.16
Ta 0.56 0.6 0.65 0.55 0.54
Th 4.14 2.8 2.75 2.36 4.16
K2O/K2O+Na2O+CaO 0.14 0.24 0.75 0.84 0.07
A12O3/K2O+Na2O+CaO 1.33 1.38 3.15 3.1 1.17
Sr/Y 21.74 20.3 8.57 5 14

Fig. 3 (a) K2O-SiO2 diagram of Peccerillo and Taylor (1976) for the fresh trachybasalts (open circles) and trachyandesite
(open squares). (b) Zr/YZr discrimination diagram for volcanic rocks (Pearce, 1983). The shaded area is the eld of
overlap.

characterized by the presence of secondary K- feldspar, tion in surcial outcrops, in particular along the
biotite, minor sericite, quartz and chlorite, replacing contacts between trachybasalt and intrusive rocks.
plagioclases and pyroxenes in trachybasalts. Biotitiza- Although, there is no different meaning between K-
tion is observed within the zones of copper mineraliza- silicate, potassic and biotitic alteration (Reed, 1997;

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80 Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology
Geochemistry around Sarcheshmeh porphyry Copper

Fig. 4 Geology of (a) rock units and


(b) alteration zones at the
Sarcheshmeh porphyry copper
deposit (modied after Jacobsen,
1975; Waterman & Hamilton,
1975; Atapour & Aftabi, 2007).
The approximate position of this
gure is shown in Figure 2.

Watanabe & Hedenquist, 2001), the biotitic alteration at calcite that replace plagioclase and alkali feldspar with
Sarcheshmeh can be divided from potassic alteration very minor amount of pyrite and chalcopyrite with
by frequent occurrence of hydrothermal brown biotite pyrite-chalcopyrite ratio of 10.
(>50 percent), sericite, pyrite, chalcopyrite and molyb-
denite and forms the proximal ore zone described by
6.3 Propylitic alteration
Ghorashizadeh (1978) and Atapour and Aftabi (2007)
with pyrite-chalcopyrite ratio between 1.5 and 2.5. This The propylitic distal alteration zone (outer zone) is the
style of alteration may indicate ductile rock behavior as most prominent alteration in trachybaslt. The alteration
evidenced by the typically sinuous, and rather discon- mineral assemblage include epidote, chlorite, albite,
tinuous stockworks and vein patterns. The quartz calcite, zeolite, kaolinite, leucoxene and minor sphaler-
monzonitic stock includes stockwork of pyrite, chal- ite, galena, pyrite and chalcopyrite. The pyrite-
copyrite and molybdenite with pyritechalcopyrite chalcopyrite ratio is about 4. These hydrothermal
ratio of about 3:1 (Atapour & Aftabi, 2007). minerals are mainly formed by propylitization of pla-
gioclases, but igneous pyroxene, hornblende and
biotite grains are also subjected to this type of alter-
6.2 Phyllic alteration ation. This alteration changes to zeolitic alteration in
The phyllic alteration occurs as interdistal halo and is the most peripheral zone (Atapour & Aftabi, 2007). The
the most intensive and common hydrothermal alter- minerals in zeolitic zone assemblage occur as veins,
ation in trachybasalt at Sarcheshmeh porphyry stock veinlets and cavitiy llings of zeolites, in particular
and around all other porphyry copper deposits in the mesolite and natrolite with calcite and quartz replacing
area. It is characterized by abundant sericite, granular plagioclases.
quartz and minor chlorite, replacing plagioclase, alkali
feldspar, and biotite. The sulde minerals include 7. Gain and loss of elements
abundant pyrite with minor chalcopyrite, molybdenite
and pyrite-chalcopyrite ratio greater than 10 (Atapour We calculate gain and loss of elements according to
& Aftabi, 2007). This alteration changes to argillic alter- Doucette (2000), who used the equation below by
ation patches in trachybasalt and Sarcheshmeh stock assuming A12O3 as an immobile oxide at constant
and includes clouding kaolinite, albite, chlorite, and volume: CB (measured value) = (rA/rB)CA, in which rA,

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Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology 81
A. Aftabi and H. Atapour

rB and CA represent the density of fresh rock, density of the sericitized zone. The distal propyliticzeolitic alter-
altered rock and elemental values of fresh rock, respec- ation zone is low in copper, but high in calcium, man-
tively. The difference between the measured values and ganese and barium. All major and trace elements may
that of the fresh rock is considered as either positive give exploration guides, in particular high values of
values (gains) or negative values (losses). The results of MnO, Ba and Y for vein type mineralization in pro-
gains and losses of major and minor elements in phylitic zones. This is indicated by the occurrence of
altered trachybasalt around the Sarcheshmeh deposit polymetallic (Cu-Pb-Zn-Ag-Au) and sulfosalt epither-
are shown in Figure 5. Figure 5 shows that silica is mal mineralization in propylitic-zeolitic zones around
mainly added to propylitized and biotized trachybaslt Sarcheshmeh and other porphyry copper deposits
in the form of quartz veins or veinlets, but depleted in within Central Iranian volcano-plutonic arc (Atapour,
sericitized and biotized rocks by high proportion of 2007). K2O/K2O + Na2O + CaO ratio may also reect the
low-silica mac alteration products. Iron is enriched in distance to the potassic and phyllic alteration zones.
the form of pyrite in sericitized trachybasalt, but
depleted in other types of alteration. Calcium, magne- 9. Geochemical discrimination diagrams;
sium, sodium, manganese, and phosphorous are a possible exploration tool
strongly depleted in all types of alteration zone.
However, magnesium is enriched in biotized volcanic The results of geochemical discrimination are pre-
rocks and calcium and manganese are also added to sented as variation bar graphs and co-variation dia-
the propylitized trachybasalt. Potassium is strongly grams (Figs 7, 8). Figure 7 shows the bar graphs for
added in biotized and sericitized trachybasalt, as some major oxides and minor elements. The back-
hydrothermal biotite and sericite, but depleted in pro- ground content for different elements of known tra-
pylitized volcanic rocks. Titanium is mainly added in chybasalts similar to the Sarcheshmeh volcanic rocks is
all alteration types in the form of sphene and rutile. The taken from Cox et al. (1979), Rose et al. (1979) and
total content of volatiles (e.g. H2O, CO2 and S), which Levinson (1980) and is illustrated in Figure 7 as open
correspond to loss on ignition (L.O.I) is signicantly circles.
added to all types of alteration zone in the form of
9.1 Potassium
hydrous and carbonate minerals. Figure 6 illustrates
that copper is strongly enriched in biotized and seric- The average potassium oxide content in the biotized
itized trachybasalt as chalcopyrite. In contrast to and sericitized volcanic rocks is close to 4 wt%, which
copper, yttrium, strontium, nickel, cobalt and to a is two times higher than the fresh rocks (Fig. 7). It is
lesser extent chromium are diluted in altered trachyba- evident that potassium was added by hydrothermal
salt. Rubidium shows an overall increase in biotized potassic (biotized) or sericitic alteration. This is in
and sericitized trachybasalt, but depleted in propyli- accord with the presence of hydrothermal biotite,
tized volcanic rocks. Barium behavior is reverse from orthoclase and sericite in the altered trachybasalts. The
that of rubidium and is strongly added to the propyli- potassic nature of these alteration halos may be attrib-
tized trachybasalt in the form of barite. Zirconium is uted to the potassium-rich parental magma of potassic
slightly added to all types of alteration zone. Vanadium and shoshonitic afnity. In the propylitized volcanic
is increased in biotized and propylitized trachybasalt, rocks, potassium is leached and declined to as low as
but depleted in sericitized ones. about 0.9 wt%, two times lower than the fresh volcanic
rocks. This is related to the leaching of potassium by
8. Geochemical zonation of major and hydrothermal solutions, as no major potassium
bearing minerals occur in propylitized trachybasalts.
minor elements
As is illustrated in Figure 8, there is a good covaria-
Figure 6 shows enrichment and depletion of the ele- tion between high copper and potassium values in the
ments near the contact with biotized and sericitized biotized and sericitized volcanic rocks, which could be
trachybasalt. Cu, K, Rb, and L.O.I are enriched and are used as a regional exploration guide for blind crypto-
mineralogically indicated by the presence of chalcopy- porphyry copper ores.
rite, molybdenite, pyrite, hydrothermal biotite, ortho-
clase and sericite. Calcium, Na, Sr, Ba, Mn and Y show 9.2 Sodium
depletion in biotized and sericitized trachybasalts. The average sodium oxide values in biotized and seric-
Magnesium is enriched in the biotized, but depleted in itized volcanic rocks is almost nine times lower (Fig. 7)

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82 Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology
Geochemistry around Sarcheshmeh porphyry Copper

10 5
% SiO2 % Fe2O3 (total) % MgO

3
5
0
1

0
-1

-5 -3 -5

3
6 % CaO % Na2O % K 2O
2 4
0
-2

-6 1
-3

-10

-14 -6 -2

0.1 0.4 0.1


% MnO % TiO2 % P2O5

0.2
0

0 -0.1

-0.1
-0.2

-0.2 -0.4 -0.3

Cu Ni
0
% L.O.I. 5000
-10
8
4000 -20

3000 -30

4 -40
2000
-50
1000 -60

0 0 -70
Co Cr V
0 20

10 50
-10
0

-20 -10
-50
-20
-30
-30
-40 -150
-40
Rb Ba Sr
150

200 -100
100

100 -300
50

0 0 -500

-50 -100 -700


Zr Y
0
3.5
Biotized rock
-5

-10 Propylitized rock


1.5

-15 Sericitized rock


-0.5 -20

Fig. 5 Changes in major and minor element abundances in altered trachybasalt. Horizontal lines represent the fresh
trachybasalt compositions.

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Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology 83
A. Aftabi and H. Atapour

Fig. 6 Major, minor and trace element abundances in surface exposures of fresh and hydrothermally altered trachybasalt
along the section AB in Figure 2.

than those of the fresh rocks. This is consistent with the 9.3 Calcium
presence of biotite, sericite, and orthoclase, replacing
pyroxenes and plagioclases and by releasing calcium The geochemical signature of calcium is similar to that
and sodium into the propylitized volcanic rocks. In the of sodium, as both elements are strongly depleted and
A12O3/CaO + K2O + Na2O - Cu diagram (Fig. 8) the leached in the biotized and sericitized trachybasalts,
biotized and sericitized volcanic rocks are completely the extent of this depletion decreasing outward from
separated from those of fresh and propylitized volcanic the center of the alteration zone. However, calcium in
rocks. propylitized trachybasalts is enriched two times

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84 Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology
Geochemistry around Sarcheshmeh porphyry Copper

Fig. 7 Bar graphs of the abundances (wt % and ppm) for major oxides and minor elements. The background values (open
circles) for fresh trachybasalt are taken from Cox et al. (1979) and Rose et al. (1979).

(Fig. 7) more than biotized and sericitized altered vol- 9.5 Magnesium
canic rocks. This is indicated by the presence of MgO was added to the biotized volcanic rocks, but
epidote, calcite, albite and zeolites formed by albitiza- removed during propylitization of trachybasalt. The
tion of calcic plagioclase and chloritization of average values are about two times higher (Fig. 7)
pyroxenes. Depletion of calcium during biotitization than the fresh rocks and three times higher than
and sericitization may be related to the leaching of sericitic and propylitic volcanic rocks. This increase
calcium due to biotitization of pyroxene and alteration of MgO in biotized volcanic rocks is indicated by
of calcic plagioclase to K-feldspar and sericite. The low the presence of Mg-rich biotite associated with pyrite.
values of calcium in the A12O3/CaO + K2O + Na2O - Cu It is noteworthy to mention that no siginicant
diagram (Fig. 8) is well correlated to higher copper
difference in MgO values can be seen between seric-
values in biotized and sericitized trachybasalts.
itized and propylitized volcanic rocks. This may be
related to the presence of Mg-free or iron -rich
9.4 Manganese mineral assemblages in the abovementioned alter-
ation zones.
The average manganese oxide values (Fig. 7) in
biotized and sericitized volcanic rocks is seven times
lower than those of the fresh volcanic rocks. Mn, like 9.6 Total volatile compounds (L.O.I.)
Ca, is markedly reduced in the biotized and sericitized The average value of L.O.I in biotized and sericitized
trachybasalt, but is signicantly added in peripheral trachybasalts are almost eight times higher (Fig. 7) than
propylitized zone, which gives higher values than those of the fresh and about two times of the propyli-
those of the fresh rocks. The lower manganese values tized volcanic rocks. This enrichment is related to the
may be caused due to the hydrothermal leaching presence of biotite and sericite in the intensely sericit-
during alteration. ized and biotized alteration zones, as these minerals

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Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology 85
A. Aftabi and H. Atapour

Fig. 8 Figures showing the correla-


tion between elements for the
fresh and altered trachybasalt.
The fresh trachybasalt (open
circles), fresh trachyandesite
(open squares), propylitized
(open diamonds), biotized (open
triangles) and sericitized (stars).

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86 Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology
Geochemistry around Sarcheshmeh porphyry Copper

consume more hydroxyl ion in their structure from The enrichment for rubidium parallels distribution pat-
hydrothermal solutions. This is apparent from terns to those of potassium, where rubidium shows an
Figure 8, in which there is a correlation between high overall gradual increase toward the altered rocks,
copper and L.O.I. values. reaching the maximum in the biotized trachybasalt.
Rubidum was removed during propylitization as its
values are lower than the fresh volcanic rocks and may
9.7 Copper largely have been lost from the hydrothermal solu-
Copper is generally increased in all alteration zones tions, although some of this may have been added to
and has clearly been added to the hydrothermal biotized and sericitized volcanic rocks or to retrograde
system as a whole. The average copper values in alteration assemblages. According to Figure 8, the
biotized and sericitized trachybasalts are hundred biotized and sericitized trachybasalts are signicantly
times and in propylitized rocks seventeen times enriched in rubidium and well separated from the
higher than those of the fresh volcanic rocks (Fig. 7). fresh and propylitized rocks.
This is mainly indicated by the presence of chalcopy-
rite and pyrite in sericitized and biotized and to a
lesser extent in the propylitized trachybasalt. As the 9.10 Barium
copper values between altered and fresh volcanic Barium was signicantly added to the propylitized tra-
rocks do not show overlapping, the utilization of fresh chybasalt. The average barium values in propylitized
and altered samples gives a better contrast for mineral trachybasalts are two times higher than those of fresh
potentiality in porphyry systems. The biotized and and biotized and sericitized volcanic rocks (Fig. 7).
sericitized volcanic rocks which contain more than According to eld observation, small barite veins have
1000 ppm copper (Fig. 8), could indicate the poten- been found in propylitic and zeolitic alteration zones in
tially mineralized porphyry copper in depth. In K2O/ volcanic rocks hosting some porphyry copper deposits
K2O + Na2O + CaO - Cu diagram (Fig. 8), the biotized in Central Iranian volcano-plutonic copper belt
and sericitized trachybasalts are well separated from (Atapour, 2007).
those of propylitic and fresh volcanic rocks. This
exploration guide is somehow similar to K2O/Na2O
ratio proposed by Boyle (1974) and Olade and Fletcher 9.11 Nickel
(1976). The average values of nickel in biotized, sericitized and
propylitized volcanic rocks are about two times (Fig. 7)
lower than that of the fresh volcanic rocks. This seems
9.8 Yttrium normal as a compatible element like nickel prefers to
The average values for yttrium in sericitized and replace or concentrate in the olivine, pyroxene and
biotized trachybasalts are two times (Fig. 8) lower than primary biotite rather than hydrothermal alteration
the fresh volcanic rocks. This indicates that yttrium is zones. This agrees with ndings of Crerar et al. (1985)
leached from sericitized and biotized volcanic rocks. that nickel is typically sequestered in rst formed mac
Although, the values for the propylitized volcanic minerals such as olivine, pyroxene, ilmenite and mag-
rocks are higher than those of sericitized and biotized netite within a crystallizing magma and thus is not
altered zone, no signicant differences can be noted normally concentrated in latestage oreforming
(Fig. 8). The depletion in yttrium is related to the liquids or alteration zones.
hydrothermal leaching during alteration from the
structure of pyroxenes, biotites, apatite and possibly
sphene and or magnetite. 9.12 Other elements
The rest of elements that are not indicated in Figure 7
do not show signicant variation. Chromium, cobalt,
9.9 Rubidium and vanadium give similar changes as nickel, as they
Rubidium was clearly added along with K to the tend to be replaced in the structure of olivine and
hydrothermally altered trachybasalt and is enriched in pyroxene. Therefore, the concentration of these ele-
the biotized and sericitized altered volcanic rocks, ments in fresh volcanic rocks are higher than those of
where most samples contain higher than two times the altered trachybasalts. Crerar et al. (1985) mentioned
(Fig. 7) rubidium compared to the fresh volcanic rocks. that these elements do not concentrate in hydrothermal

2010 The Authors


Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology 87
A. Aftabi and H. Atapour

uids. However, slight increase of these elements in Armbrus, G. A., Oyarzum, J. and Arias, J. (1977) Rubidium as a
biotized and sericitized volcanic rocks may be related guide to ore in Chilean porphyry copper deposits. Econ.
Geol., 72, 10861100.
to their replacement in sulde minerals, biotite and
Atapour, H. (2007) Geochemical evolution and metallogeny of
sericite. No signicant variation can be seen for potassic igneous rocks of the volcano-plutonic belt of Kerman
niobium, zirconium, tantalum and thorium both in province with particular reference to special elements.
fresh and altered volcanic rocks.This may be due to Unpublished Ph.D thesis, Shahid Bahonar University of
immobile nature of some of these elements. Kerman, Kerman, Iran, 401p (in Persian).
Atapour, H. and Aftabi, A. (2007) The geochemistry of gossans
associated with Sarcheshmeh porphyry copper deposit, Raf-
10. Summary and conclusion sanjan, Kerman, Iran: implications for exploration and the
environment. J. Geochem. Explor., 93, 4766.
The main host rocks around the Sarcheshmeh por- Baldwin, I. A. and Pearce, J. A. (1982) Discrimination of produc-
phyry copper deposit are Eocene trachybasalts that are tive and nonproductive porphyritic intrusions in the Chilean
intruded by Miocene quartz monzonite and granodior- Andes. Econ. Geol., 22, 664674.
Boyle, R. W. (1974) The use of major elemental ratios in detailed
ite in the Central Iranian volcanoplutonic copper belt.
geochemical prospecting, utilizing primary halos. J.
The alteration geochemistry gives the following results: Geochem. Explor., 3, 345369.
Athough, no single element is an adequate Chaffee, M. A. (1976) The zonal distribution of selected elements
geochemical discriminant, but altered and fresh volca- above the Kalamazoo porphyry copper deposit, San Manel
nic rocks are well separated by enrichment of Cu,Rb, district, Pinal County, Arizona. J. Geochem. Explor., 5, 145
165.
K2O, K2O/K2O + Na2O + CaO and L.O.I., in biotized
Cox, K. G., Bell, J. D. and Pankhurst, R. J. (1979) The interpretation
and sericitized trachybasalts and depletion of Na2O, of igneous rocks. George Allen and Unwin, London.
CaO, Sr, MnO, Y, Ba and Ni in the same abovemen- Crerar, D. A., Wood, S. A., Brantley, S. and Bocarsly, A. (1985)
tioned alteration zones. Chemical controls on the solubility of ore forming minerals in
Na2O, MnO, CaO, Sr, Y and Ba are enriched in pro- hydrothermal solutions. Can. Mineral., 23, 333352.
Doucette, J. (2000) A petrochemical study of the Mount Fubilan
pylitized alteration zones.
intrusion and associated ore bodies, Papua New Guinea.
YCu, YMnO, YL.O.I., K2O/K2O + Na2O + Unpublished Ph.D thesis, Oregon State University, 230p.
CaOCu and CuL.O.I. co-variation diagrams are the Ellis, R. (1991) Sarcheshmeh: mining magazine. October, p. 192
possible geochemical discriminants in altered volcanic 196.
rocks that may be used to detect Cu mineralized targets Etminan, H. (1977) Le porphyre cuprifere de Sarcheshmeh (Iran):
role des phases uids dans les mecanisumes dalteration et de
in an exploration program.
mineralization. Sciences de la terre, memoire 34, 249p.
Ghorashizadeh, M. (1978) Development of hypogene and super-
Acknowledgments gene alteration and copper mineralization patterns at
Sarcheshmeh porphyry copper deposit, Iran. M.Sc thesis,
The authors wish to acknowledge the generous coop- Brock University, Canada, 223p.
eration of Geological Survey of Iran for major and trace Hedenquist, J. W. and Richards, J. P. (1998) The inuence of
element determination of samples. We also appreciate geochemical techniques on the development of genetic
models for porphyry copper deposits. Rew. Econ. Geo1., 10,
the help of Dr Y. Watanabe, Managing Editor, Dr Y. 235256.
Kajiwara, Editor-in-Chief, of Resource Geology and Helgeson, H. C. (1970) A chemical and thermodynamic model of
two anonymous reviewers for constructive and ore deposition in hydrothermal systems. Mineral. Soc. Am.
thoughtful review comments. Spec. Pap., 3, 155186.
Hollister, V. F. (1974) Regional characteristics of porphyry copper
deposits of South America. Soc. Min. Eng. AIME Trans., 255,
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APPENDIX Table A1
Bulk chemical composition of the volcanic rocks in the Sarcheshmeh porphyry Cu deposit (unit: wt.%)
Sample Rock type Nature SiO2 TiO2 Al2O3 Fe2O3 MnO MgO CaO Na2O K2O P2O5 L.O.I Total

1 Trachybasalt Fresh 49.1 1.60 17.9 10.59 0.16 5.47 7.6 3.5 1.9 0.51 1.75 101.08
2 Propylitic Altered 52.0 1.10 16.8 9.99 0.22 1.20 8.4 3.4 0.45 0.45 4.2 98.91
3 Sericitized Altered 51.0 1.20 21.0 9.95 0.09 2.80 0.6 0.7 4.2 0.26 7.5 99.3
4 Biotized Altered 48.5 1.12 18.2 10.98 0.04 7.50 0.9 0.8 4.5 0.24 6.7 99.48
5 Biotized Altered 52.4 1.20 18.1 9.19 0.09 6.70 0.75 0.81 4.5 0.30 6.0 100.04
6 Biotized Altered 49.4 1.10 19.5 8.38 0.06 8.10 0.4 0.2 4.7 0.28 7.6 99.72
8 Sericitized Altered 49.0 1.10 18.0 14.88 0.04 3.80 0.9 0.8 4.0 0.34 8.0 100.86
9 Sericitized Altered 53.8 0.90 18.9 11.30 0.06 3.35 0.4 0.31 3.8 0.28 8.8 101.9
11 Sericitized Altered 54.1 1.10 18.5 11.33 0.08 2.80 0.45 0.18 4.8 0.23 8.5 102.07
12 Sericitized Altered 52.5 1.60 17.2 10.50 0.07 2.50 0.5 0.26 5.2 0.24 9.5 100.07
14 Sericitized Altered 51.8 1.20 16.5 10.20 0.05 3.00 0.8 0.4 5.6 0.27 10.0 99.82
15 Sericitized Altered 49.8 1.10 17.1 11.60 0.08 3.20 0.7 0.3 6.5 0.29 8.8 99.47
16 Propylitic Altered 48.0 0.90 16.6 9.42 0.24 6.50 10.8 2.45 1.2 0.30 4.2 99.81
17 Propylitic Altered 56.4 1.30 14.5 10.33 0.25 2.30 4.8 5.4 0.71 0.32 3.8 100.15
18 Propylitic Altered 53.0 0.85 17.0 10.50 0.26 2.40 11.4 1.8 0.9 0.28 3.1 101.49
19 Biotized Altered 55.1 1.00 15.9 8.10 0.03 7.50 1.1 0.8 4.2 0.27 6.4 100.4
21 Porpylitic Altered 54.6 1.20 16.2 10.93 0.27 3.30 5.1 2.7 1.2 0.35 3.5 99.35
22 Trachybasalt Fresh 49.0 1.30 17.4 11.28 0.17 5.20 7.25 3.07 2.1 0.48 1.85 99.1
23 Propylitic Altered 51.0 1.10 16.5 10.10 0.28 5.40 8.6 3.0 1.5 0.28 4.1 101.86
24 Trachybasalt Fresh 50.1 1.20 16.8 10.25 0.18 5.40 6.7 3.85 2.2 0.53 1.75 98.96
25 Trachybasalt Fresh 49.7 1.20 18.1 10.78 0.25 5.46 9.2 2.8 1.56 0.41 1.75 101.27
30 Trachybasalt Fresh 48.2 0.95 18.5 9.72 0.21 6.36 10.2 2.5 1.5 0.40 1.08 99.59
31 Trachybasalt Fresh 48.5 0.86 18.9 9.76 0.23 5.70 9.6 2.6 1.67 0.38 1.8 100
32 Trachybasalt Fresh 51.2 0.77 18.5 9.45 0.11 4.40 6.6 3.3 2.8 0.43 1.58 99.14
33 Trachyandesite Fresh 53.6 0.85 19.5 7.98 0.11 3.30 7.5 3.3 2.8 0.38 1.9 101.22
34 Trachyandesite Fresh 54.0 0.50 17.6 8.88 0.14 2.75 7.4 2.7 4.1 0.44 1.6 100.11
35 Trachyandesite Fresh 56.8 0.90 18.6 7.96 0.14 2.10 5.1 3.56 2.5 0.56 1.5 99.72
36 Trachyandesite Fresh 57.5 1.16 16.7 6.71 0.16 2.57 4.9 4.26 3.3 0.66 1.4 99.32
37 Trachyandesite Fresh 56.4 0.90 18.1 6.50 0.17 2.60 5.0 4.6 3.1 0.54 1.8 99.71

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A. Aftabi and H. Atapour

Table A1 Continued
(unit: ppm)
Sample Rock Type Nature Cr Ni Co V Cu Rb Ba Sr Ta Nb Zr Y Th

1 TrachybasaIt Fresh 54 80 37 280 29 75 140 580 0.5 5 115 24 3


2 Propylitic Altered 26 16 9 241 134 60 273 220 0.6 5 136 12 4
3 Sericitized Altered 30 28 14 168 2940 160 120 91 0.6 6 132 14 2
4 Biotized Altered 44 34 18 240 3600 200 200 120 0.7 5 120 12 2
5 Biotized Altered 51 40 20 280 3858 180 175 81 0.5 8 128 15 3
6 Biotized Altered 68 30 22 260 1950 190 156 100 0.8 7 130 13 4
8 Sericitized Altered 61 58 18 121 3360 165 160 37 0.8 4 148 10 2
9 Sericitized Altered 45 58 14 80 4052 150 187 75 0.9 5 160 12 2
11 Sericitized Altered 20 28 14 200 2150 176 110 32 0.7 5 125 11 2
12 Sericitized Altered 32 26 12 160 3400 160 140 68 0.6 4 130 10 3
14 Sericitized Altered 30 24 10 180 3100 150 126 26 0.5 3 145 13 4
15 Sericitized Altered 40 36 14 150 2800 140 111 68 0.8 4 140 9 2
16 Propylitic Altered 22 20 11 252 60 81 340 178 0.7 6 150 13 3
17 Propylitic Altered 28 22 12 209 167 70 321 236 0.5 8 125 13 3
18 Propylitic Altered 19 14 8 230 140 58 250 210 0.7 6 120 11 5
19 Biotized Altered 53 67 21 265 3400 210 194 128 0.7 8 136 10 2
20 Sericitized Altered 36 25 16 100 2400 146 130 59 0.5 2 120 8 4
21 Propylitic Altered 32 27 10 200 320 65 405 387 0.8 7 140 10 4
22 Trachybasalt Fresh 51 70 32 250 35 84 150 271 0.6 4 120 23 4
23 Propylitic Altered 28 18 12 230 180 75 350 280 0.5 5 180 14 6
24 Trachybasalt Fresh 48 68 29 240 32 87 160 520 0.5 6 135 26 2
25 Trachybasalt Fresh 54 80 37 293 30 90 138 276 0.7 6 110 23 4
30 Trachybasalt Fresh 52 72 36 194 28 83 176 589 0.7 5 106 24 5
31 Trachybasalt Fresh 45 24 15 133 34 168 904 478 0.5 7 181 29 6
32 Trachybasalt Fresh 48 28 18 139 38 160 678 521 0.8 5 163 34 5
33 Trachyandesite Fresh 44 16 18 139 28 174 1015 491 0.7 8 135 22 6
34 Trachyandesite Fresh 47 17 14 116 36 99 1251 504 0.6 5 106 25 2
35 Trachyandesite Fresh 57 24 12 128 32 96 540 384 0.9 8 124 31 1
36 Trachyandesite Fresh 34 31 16 121 36 85 640 417 0.5 8 122 21 2
37 Trachyandesite Fresh 40 26 12 180 28 70 500 410 0.7 6 120 20 3

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90 Resource Geology 2010 The Society of Resource Geology