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Mixed messages in iron oxide–copper–gold systems of the Cloncurry district, Australia: insights from PIXE analysis of halogens and copper in fluid inclusions

Abstract

Proterozoic rocks of the Cloncurry district in NW Queensland, Australia, are host to giant (tens to hundreds of square kilometers) hydrothermal systems that include (1) barren regional sodic–calcic alteration, (2) granite-hosted hydrothermal complexes with magmatic–hydrothermal transition features, and (3) iron oxide–copper–gold (IOCG) deposits. Fluid inclusion microthermometry and proton-induced X-ray emission (PIXE) show that IOCG deposits and the granite-hosted hydrothermal complexes contain abundant high temperature, ultrasaline, complex multisolid (type 1) inclusions that are less common in the regional sodic–calcic alteration. The latter is characterized by lower salinity three-phase halite-bearing (type 2) and two-phase (type 3) aqueous inclusions. Copper contents of the type 1 inclusions (>300 ppm) is higher than in type 2 and 3 inclusions (<300 ppm), and the highest copper concentrations (>1,000 ppm) are found both in the granite-hosted systems and in inclusions with Br/Cl ratios that are consistent with a magmatic source. The Br/Cl ratios of the inclusions with lower Cu contents are consistent with an evaporite-related origin. Wide ranges in salinity and homogenization temperatures for fluid inclusions in IOCG deposits and evidence for multiple fluid sources, as suggested by halogen ratios, indicate fluid mixing as an important process in IOCG genesis. The data support both leaching of Cu by voluminous nonmagmatic fluids from crustal rocks, as well as the direct exsolution of Cu-rich fluids from magmas. However, larger IOCG deposits may form from magmatic-derived fluids based on their higher Cu content.

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Acknowledgments

This research has drawn upon almost two decades of research in the Cloncurry district, which has been supported by numerous mining companies, James Cook University, and Australian Research Council grants and more recently the pmd*CRC.

Author information

Correspondence to Timothy Baker.

Additional information

Editorial handling: G. Davidson

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Baker, T., Mustard, R., Fu, B. et al. Mixed messages in iron oxide–copper–gold systems of the Cloncurry district, Australia: insights from PIXE analysis of halogens and copper in fluid inclusions. Miner Deposita 43, 599 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-008-0198-y

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Keywords

  • Iron oxide
  • Copper
  • Gold
  • Proterozoic
  • Cloncurry
  • Bromine
  • Chlorine