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RECOGNIZING PORPHYRY COPPER POTENTIAL FROM TILL ZIRCON COMPOSITION: A CASE STUDY FROM THE HIGHLAND VALLEY PORPHYRY DISTRICT, SOUTH-CENTRAL BRITISH COLUMBIA
Economic Geology  (IF4.49),  Pub Date : 2021-06-01, DOI: 10.5382/econgeo.4808
Robert G. Lee, Alain Plouffe, Travis Ferbey, Craig J.R. Hart, Pete Hollings, Sarah A. Gleeson

The detrital zircons in tills overlying the Guichon Creek batholith, British Columbia, Canada, have trace element concentrations and ages similar to those of zircons from the bedrock samples from which they are interpreted to have been sourced. Rocks from the core of the batholith that host porphyry copper mineralization have distinct zircon compositions relative to the distal, barren margin. We analyzed 296 zircons separated from 12 subglacial till samples to obtain U-Pb ages and trace element compositions. Laser ablation U-Pb ages of the detrital zircons overlap within error with chemical abrasion-thermal ionization mass spectrometry U-Pb ages of the Late Triassic Guichon Creek batholith and confirm that the detrital zircons are likely derived from the batholith. The youngest intrusions of the batholith produced the Highland Valley Copper porphyry deposits and contain distinctive zircons with elevated Eu/EuN* >0.4 attributed to high magmatic water contents and oxidation states, indicating higher porphyry copper potential. Zircon from till samples adjacent to and 9 km down-ice from the mineralized centers have mean Eu/EuN* >0.4, which are indicative of potential porphyry copper mineralization. Detrital zircon grains from more distal up- and down-ice locations (10–15 km) have zircon Eu/EuN* mean values of 0.26 to 0.37, reflecting background values. We conclude that detrital zircon compositions in glacial sediments transported several kilometers can be used to establish the regional potential for porphyry copper mineralization.