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Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5090–G

Prepared in cooperation with the Russian Academy of Sciences, China Geological Survey, Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, the Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programs in East and Southeast Asia, and XDM Geological Consultants, Inc.

Porphyry Copper Assessment of the Mesozoic of East Asia—China, Vietnam, North Korea, Mongolia, and Russia

By Steve Ludington, Mark J. Mihalasky, Jane M. Hammarstrom, Gilpin R. Robinson, Jr., Thomas P. Frost, Kathleen D. Gans, Thomas D. Light, Robert J. Miller, and Dmitriy Alexeiev; based on contributions of Yan Guangsheng, Lian Changyun, Mao Jingwen, Li Jinyi, Xiao Keyan, Qiu Ruizhao, Shao Jianbao, Zhai Gangyi, Du Yuliang, Arthur A. Bookstrom, and Andre Panteleyev

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (4.7 MB)Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collaborated with the China Geological Survey (CGS) to conduct a mineral resource assessment of Mesozoic porphyry copper deposits in East Asia. This area hosts several very large porphyry deposits, exemplified by the Dexing deposit in eastern China that contains more than 8,000,000 metric tons of copper. In addition, large parts of the area are undergoing active exploration and are likely to contain undiscovered porphyry copper deposits.

Three tracts were delineated to be permissive for Mesozoic porphyry copper deposits in East Asia: the Manchuride, Coastal Pacific, and East Qinling tracts, all Jurassic through Cretaceous in age. The tracts are based on mapped and inferred subsurface distributions of igneous rocks that define areas where the occurrence of porphyry copper deposits is possible. These tracts range in area from about 170,000 to about 1,400,000 km2. Although maps at a variety of scales were used in the assessment, the final tract boundaries are intended for use at a scale of 1:1,000,000.

These Mesozoic deposits in East Asia all formed in post-subduction environments, environments newly recognized as permissive for the occurrence of porphyry copper deposits. Based on the grade, tonnage, and geologic characteristics of the known deposits, two tracts, Manchuride and Coastal Pacific, were evaluated using the general (Cu-Mo-Au) porphyry copper grade and tonnage model. The East Qinling tract was evaluated using the molybdenum-rich (Cu-Mo) model. Assessment participants estimated numbers of undiscovered deposits at different levels of confidence for each permissive tract. These estimates were then combined with the selected grade and tonnage models using Monte Carlo simulation to generate quantitative probabilistic estimates of undiscovered resources. Resources in future extensions of deposits with identified resources were not specifically evaluated.

Assessment results, presented in tables and graphs, show mean amounts of metal and rock in undiscovered deposits at different quantile levels, as well as the arithmetic mean for each tract. This assessment estimated a mean total of about 44 undiscovered porphyry copper deposits within the assessed permissive tracts in East Asia. This represents nearly 4 times the 12 known deposits. Predicted mean (arithmetic) resources that could be associated with these undiscovered deposits are about 198,000,000 metric tons (t) of copper and about 3,900 t of gold, as well as byproduct molybdenum and silver. The reported identified resources for those 12 known deposits total about 23,000,000 t of copper and about 850 t of gold. The assessment area is estimated to contain nearly nine times as much copper in undiscovered porphyry copper deposits as has been identified to date.

This report includes an overview of the assessment results and summary tables. Descriptions of each tract are included in appendixes, with estimates of numbers of undiscovered deposits, and probabilistic estimates of amounts of copper, molybdenum, gold, and silver that could be contained in undiscovered deposits for each permissive tract. A geographic information system that accompanies the report includes tract boundaries and a database of known porphyry copper deposits and prospects.

First posted December 15, 2012

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Suggested citation:

Ludington, Steve, Mihalasky, M.J., Hammarstrom, J.M., Robinson, G.R., Jr., Frost, T.P., Gans, K.D., Light, T.D., Miller, R.J., and Alexeiev, Dmitriy, 2012, Porphyry copper assessment of the Mesozoic of East Asia—China, Vietnam, North Korea, Mongolia, and Russia: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5090–G, 53 p. and GIS data, available at




Porphyry Copper Deposit Models

Tectonic Setting

Assessment Data

Exploration History

The Assessment Process


References Cited

Appendixes A&ndashF

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