Platinum-group element geochemistry used to determine Cu and Au fertility in the Northparkes igneous suites, New South Wales, Australia
Hao, H and Campbell, IH and Park, J-W and Cooke, DR, Platinum-group element geochemistry used to determine Cu and Au fertility in the Northparkes igneous suites, New South Wales, Australia, Geochimica Et Cosmochimica Acta, 216 pp. 372-392. ISSN 0016-7037 (2017) [Refereed Article]
Recent studies have shown that platinum-group elements (PGE) can be used to constrain the timing of sulfide saturation in evolving felsic systems. In this study, we report trace-element, PGE, Re and Au data for the barren and ore-associated suites of intermediate to felsic rocks from the Northparkes Cu-Au porphyry region, emphasizing the timing of sulfide saturation and its influence on the tenor of the associated hydrothermal mineralization. Two barren suites, the Goonumbla and Wombin Volcanics and associate intrusive rocks, are found in the region. Geochemical modelling shows that the barren suites are dominated by plagioclase-pyroxene fractionation, whereas the ore-associated Northparkes Cu-Au porphyry suite is characterized by plagioclase-amphibole fractionation, which requires the ore-bearing suite to have crystallized from a wetter magma than barren suites. The concentrations of PGE, Re and Au in the barren suites decrease continuously during fractional crystallization. This is attributed to early sulfide saturation with the fraction of immiscible sulfide precipitation required to produce the observed trend, being 0.13 and 0.16 wt.% for the Goonumbla and Wombin suites, respectively. The calculated partition coefficients for Au and Pd required to model the observed change in these elements with MgO are well below published values, indicating that R, the mass ratio of silicate to sulfide melt, played a significant role in controlling the rate of decline of these elements with fractionation. Palladium in the ore-associated suite, in contrast, first increases with fractionation then decreases abruptly at 1.2 wt.% MgO. The sharp decrease is attributed to the onset of sulfide precipitation. Platinum on the other hand shows a moderate decrease, starting from the highest MgO sample analysed, but then decreasing strongly from 1.2 wt.% MgO. The initial Pt decrease is attributed to precipitation of a platinum-group mineral (PGM), probably a Pt-Fe alloy, and the sharp decrease of both Pt and Pd at 1.2 wt.% MgO to sulfide saturation. We suggest that the Goonumbla and Wombin suites are barren because early sulfide saturation locked most of the Cu and Au in a sulfide phase in the cumulus pile of a deep parental magma chamber, well before volatile saturation, so that when the magma reached volatile saturation, it did not have access to the Cu and Au. This contrasts with the relatively late sulfide saturation in the ore-associated suite, which was followed shortly afterwards by volatile saturation. Rayleigh fractionation concentrated incompatible Cu and Au by at least a factor of five before volatile saturation. The short crystallization interval between immiscible sulfide and volatile saturation allowed some Au and Cu to be stripped from the evolving magma. Gold, with its higher partition coefficient into immiscible sulfide melts, was more affected than Cu. The result is a Cu-Au deposit. Our study also suggests that Rayleigh fractionation is as at least as important as the initial concentration of chalcophile elements in the parent magma in determining the fertility of felsic magma suites.