Spectral characteristics of propylitic alteration minerals as a vectoring tool for porphyry copper deposits

Neal, Luke C., Wilkinson, Jamie J., Mason, Philippa J., and Chang, Zhaoshan (2018) Spectral characteristics of propylitic alteration minerals as a vectoring tool for porphyry copper deposits. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 184 (Part A). pp. 179-198.

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Short-wave infrared (SWIR) reflectance spectroscopy is a quick and effective method of detecting and characterising hydrothermal alteration associated with ore deposits, and can identify not only mineral species but also changes in the major element composition of minerals. Porphyry deposits represent large accumulations of valuable metal in the Earth's crust and have extensive alteration signatures making them an attractive target for exploration, particularly by remote sensing which can cover large areas quickly. Reflectance spectroscopy has been widely applied in sericitic (phyllic), argillic and advanced argillic alteration domains because it is particularly effective in discriminating bright clay minerals. However, the propylitic domain has remained relatively unexplored because propylitic rocks are typically dark and produce relatively poorly-defined spectra.

This study utilised an ASD TerraSpec 4 handheld spectrometer to collect SWIR spectra from rocks surrounding the Batu Hijau Cu-Au porphyry deposit in Indonesia, where previous work has identified systematic spatial variations in the chemistry of chlorite, a common propylitic alteration mineral. Spectra were collected from 90 samples and processed using The Spectral Geologist (TSG) software as well as the Halo mineral identifier to characterise mineralogy and extract the positions and depths of spectral absorption features, which were then correlated with major element geochemistry. Two diagnostic chlorite absorption features located at around 2250 nm and 2340 nm correlate with the Mg# (Mg/[Mg +Fe]) of chlorite, both in terms of wavelength position and depth. As the Mg# increases, the wavelengths of both features increase from 2249 nm to 2254 nm and from 2332 nm to 2343 nm respectively, and absorption depths also increase significantly. In the spatial dimension, these feature variations act as reasonably strong vectors to the orebody, showing systematic increases over a transect away from the porphyry centre, peaking at distances of around 1.6 km, which matches the spatial trend displayed by Mg#, as well as various trace element indicators in chlorite. The hull slope in spectra between 1400 nm and 1900 nm is also shown to increase with Mg#, and the position of an absorption feature at 1400 nm increases with the Al:Si ratio, a parameter that also tends to increase with proximity to porphyry deposits.

Feature depth variations in particular appear to represent a new finding in chlorite reflectance spectroscopy; however, the causes are not entirely clear and require further investigation. Nonetheless, the systematic behaviour provides a potentially useful new tool for exploration in propylitic alteration zones.

Item ID: 51483
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
ISSN: 0375-6742
Funders: Imperial College London, London Centre for Ore Deposits and Exploration
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2017 23:07
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040307 Ore Deposit Petrology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 84 MINERAL RESOURCES (excl. Energy Resources) > 8401 Mineral Exploration > 840102 Copper Ore Exploration @ 50%
84 MINERAL RESOURCES (excl. Energy Resources) > 8401 Mineral Exploration > 840105 Precious (Noble) Metal Ore Exploration @ 50%
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