Tectono-magmatic evolution of porphyry belts in the central Tethys region of Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, western Pakistan, and southern Afghanistan

Ore Geology Reviews
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Exploration in the central Tethys region of Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and western Pakistan has led to the identification of the giant Reko Diq (24 Mt Cu and 1300 t Au), Sar Cheshmeh (8.9 Mt Cu and 0.46 Mt Mo), Sungun (5.1 Mt Cu and 0.20 Mt Mo), and Kadjaran (4.6 Mt Cu, 0.94 Mt Mo, and 1100 t Au), and 10 other large (1–2 Mt Cu) porphyry deposits including Saindak, Cevizlidere, Teghout, Meiduk, and Halilağa. Continued exploration efforts have also resulted in the development of porphyry-related gold deposits such as Kişladağ (9.6 Moz Au), Çöpler (3.7 Moz Au), Aği Daği (1.7 Moz Au), and Sary Gunay (3.0 Moz Au), and in the generation of several other promising exploration projects.

The distribution in space and time of porphyry deposits in the central Tethys region was shaped by complex pre- to post-mineral tectonic, igneous, collisional, uplift and burial events. These events are represented by a partially-overlapping and variably exhumed and covered collage of twenty-six Early Jurassic to Holocene magmatic belts permissive for the occurrence of porphyry deposits (porphyry tracts and sub-tracts). Twelve tracts or sub-tracts are characterized by compressional continental arcs that formed on drifting terranes or continental margins, 10 developed in compressional to extensional intra-oceanic arc and backarc-rift settings, and 4 formed in extensional post-collisional environments over amalgamated terranes. Eight of these belts were variably affected by coeval and younger metamorphic, fold-and-thrust, and extensional faulting events.

Fifty-four porphyry Au-(Cu), Cu-Au, Cu-Mo, Mo-Cu deposits, 15 porphyry-related Au, Au-(Mo) and W-(Mo-Au) deposits, 239 porphyry prospects, and 68 other porphyry-related mineral sites were identified in the study region. Of the 376 porphyry and porphyry-related sites, about 11% formed in island arc, 42% in continental arc, 20% in backarc, and 27% in post-collisional settings. Of the 69 porphyry and porphyry-related deposits, 7% developed in intra-oceanic arc, 41% in continental arc, 27% in backarc, and 25% in post-collisional settings. The largest occur in either compressional continental arc (18 deposits including the Reko Diq and Sar Cheshmeh giants) or post-collisional (13 deposits including the Kadjaran and Sungun giants) environments. Ninety percent of the largest porphyry or porphyry-related deposits occur in only 9 of the 26 permissive porphyry tracts or sub-tracts. Moreover, 88, 90, and 77% of the identified Cu, Mo, and Au resources are contained in porphyry deposits that occur in only 4 of these 9 tracts. Of these 4 tracts, 3 outline arc settings, and one delimits a post-collisional environment.

The compositional diversity of porphyry intrusions in these tectono-magmatic environments generally varies from island arc settings with the most restricted range (partly alkaline but mainly calc-alkaline dioritic to granodioritic-tonalitic), to continental arc (calc-alkaline dioritic-quartz dioritic, granodioritic, quartz monzonitic-granitic, and less commonly mildly alkaline), to backarc (mildly alkaline and calc-alkaline dioritic to granitic), to post-collisional settings with the most expansive range (alkaline and calc-alkaline mafic to felsic, and weakly peraluminous). Metal associations also vary broadly as a function of porphyry intrusion composition from weakly peraluminous to metaluminous felsic (Mo[±W ± Cu]; <2% of porphyry-related systems [i.e., Tyrnyauz]), to metaluminous felsic and intermediate (Cu-Mo[±Au]; 85% [i.e., Cevizlidere, Haft Cheshmeh, Kahang, Sar Cheshmeh, Sungun, Teghout, Reko Diq, Saindak]), to mildly alkaline felsic and intermediate (Cu-Au[±Mo] [i.e., Agarak, Kadjaran, Kale Kafi]) and mafic (Au-Cu; 12% [i.e., Çöpler]), and to alkaline felsic (Au-Mo; 1% of porphyry-related systems [i.e., Kişladağ).

Tectonic changes were critical in triggering the formation of large porphyry deposits in the region. Large porphyry deposits were preferentially emplaced in continental arc settings shortly before major collisional events (Dar Alu, Kahang, Meiduk, Now Chun, and the giant Sar Cheshmeh and Reko Diq deposits), or in post-subduction environments shortly after collision (Bakirçay, Güzelyayla, Haft Cheshmeh, Masjed Daghi, and the giant Kadjaran and Sungun deposits) or during periods of prominent extension (Aği Daği, Halilağa, Kişladağ, Sari Gunay, and Zarshuran porphyry-related deposits). Collision-induced uplift, erosion, and removal of coeval volcanic rocks favorably exposed the hypabyssal level of subduction-related porphyry deposits. Extensional structures that developed parallel and orthogonal to the compressional principal stress component along transtensional or transpressional strike-slip faults or in pull-apart basins commonly controlled porphyry-related deposits in post-collisional settings. The latter deposits typically exhibit shallow epithermal levels of emplacement because of preservation by burial.

Seventeen porphyry deposits and one porphyry-related deposit in the study region are reported to contain significant supergene resources. Relatively mature levels of secondary copper enrichment in dominantly granodioritic to granitic porphyry deposits occur in areas where large pyrite-rich quartz-sericite alteration zones have been preserved and exposed to surface oxidation (Güzelyayla and Ulutaş in northeastern Turkey; Agarak, Ankavan, Dastakert, Kadjaran, and Teghout in Armenia; Ali Javad in northern Iran; Kale Kafi in central Iran; Darreh Zar, Meiduk, Now Chun, and Sar Cheshmeh in southeastern Iran; and Tanjeel in southwestern Pakistan). Chalcocite blankets also developed over porphyry deposits in regions where significant post-mineral faulting has occurred (Muratdere and Sarıçayıryayla in western Turkey). Normal faulting also enhanced secondary enrichment of gold in the Halilağa porphyry and Sary Gunay porphyry-related deposits located respectively in western Turkey and northern Iran.

Evaluation of provincial as well as local controls strongly suggests that continued exploration in the region will lead to the identification of additional porphyry and porphyry-related deposits. These deposits will likely be found under younger cover formations in porphyry belts that are already known, and in association with superjacent high- and intermediate-sulfidation epithermal deposits, or increasingly peripheral skarn, carbonate-replacement, and sediment-hosted deposits. Application of suitable exploration techniques to detect concealed and/or deformed deposits in porphyry belts that remain under-explored may also prove productive.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Tectono-magmatic evolution of porphyry belts in the central Tethys region of Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran, western Pakistan, and southern Afghanistan
Series title Ore Geology Reviews
DOI 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2019.02.034
Volume 111
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center, Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 102849, 74 p.
Country Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey
Other Geospatial Tethys region
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