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Open-File Report 2008–1253

Prepared and published jointly by the geological surveys of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and the United States

Quantitative Mineral Resource Assessment of Copper, Molybdenum, Gold, and Silver in Undiscovered Porphyry Copper Deposits in the Andes Mountains of South America

Published 2008
Version 1

By Charles G. Cunningham,1 Eduardo O. Zappettini,2 Waldo Vivallo S.,3 Carlos Mario Celada,4 Jorge Quispe,5 Donald A. Singer,6 Joseph A Briskey,1 David M. Sutphin,1 Mariano Gajardo M.,3 Alejandro Diaz,3 Carlos Portigliati,3 Vladimir I. Berger,6 Rodrigo Carrasco,3 and Klaus J. Schulz1

1 U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, U.S.A.
2 Instituto de Geología y Recursos Minerales, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
3 Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería, Providencia, Santiago, Chile.
4 Instituto Colombiano de Geología y Minería, Colombia.
5 Instituto Geológico Minero y Metalúrgico, Peru.
6 U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, U.S.A.

OFR 2008-1253 Cover and link to report

PDF Open-File Report 2008–1253
(60,909 KB, 282 pages)


Table1.pdf and Table1.xls
Table2.pdf and Table2.xls
Plate1.pdf, Plate2.pdf, and Plate3.pdf
Digital Map File



Quantitative information on the general locations and amounts of undiscovered porphyry copper resources of the world is important to exploration managers, land-use and environmental planners, economists, and policy makers. This publication contains the results of probabilistic estimates of the amounts of copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), gold (Au), and silver (Ag) in undiscovered porphyry copper deposits in the Andes Mountains of South America. The methodology used to make these estimates is called the "Three-Part Form.” It was developed to explicitly express estimates of undiscovered resources and associated uncertainty in a form that allows economic analysis and is useful to decisionmakers.

The three-part form of assessment includes: (1) delineation of tracts of land where the geology is permissive for porphyry copper deposits to form; (2) selection of grade and tonnage models appropriate for estimating grades and tonnages of the undiscovered porphyry copper deposits in each tract; and (3) estimation of the number of undiscovered porphyry copper deposits in each tract consistent with the grade and tonnage model. A Monte Carlo simulation computer program (EMINERS) was used to combine the probability distributions of the estimated number of undiscovered deposits, the grades, and the tonnages of the selected model to obtain the probability distributions for undiscovered metals in each tract. These distributions of grades and tonnages then can be used to conduct economic evaluations of undiscovered resources in a format usable by decisionmakers. Economic evaluations are not part of this report.

The results of this assessment are presented in two principal parts. The first part identifies 26 regional tracts of land where the geology is permissive for the occurrence of undiscovered porphyry copper deposits of Phanerozoic age to a depth of 1 km below the Earth’s surface. These tracts are believed to contain most of South America's undiscovered resources of copper. The second part presents probabilistic estimates of the amounts of copper, molybdenum, gold, and silver in undiscovered porphyry copper deposits in each tract. The study also provides tables showing the location, tract number, and age (if available) of discovered deposits and prospects. For each of the 26 permissive tracts delineated in this study, summary information is provided on: (1) the rationale for delineating the tract; (2) the rationale for choosing the mineral deposit model used to assess the tract; (3) discovered deposits and prospects; (4) exploration history; and (5) the distribution of undiscovered deposits in the tract. The scale used to evaluate geologic information and draw tracts is 1:1,000,000.


Suggested citation:
Cunningham, C.G., Zappettini, E.O., Vivallo S., Waldo, Celada, C.M., Quispe, Jorge, Singer, D.A., Briskey, J.A, Sutphin, D.M., Gajardo M., Mariano, Diaz, Alejandro, Portigliati, Carlos, Berger, V.I., Carrasco, Rodrigo, and Schulz, K.J., 2008, Quantitative mineral resource assessment of copper, molybdenum, gold, and silver in undiscovered porphyry copper deposits in the Andes Mountains of South America: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1253, 282 p. Available on CD-ROM and online at

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