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A rapid change in magma plumbing taps porphyry copper deposit-forming magmas

Carter, Lawrence C.; Tapster, Simon R.; Williamson, Ben J.; Buret, Yannick; Selby, David; Rollinson, Gavyn K.; Millar, Ian; Parvaz, Daniel B.

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Lawrence C. Carter

Simon R. Tapster

Ben J. Williamson

Yannick Buret

David Selby

Gavyn K. Rollinson

Ian Millar

Daniel B. Parvaz


Porphyry-type deposits are a vital source of green technology metals such as copper and molybdenum. They typically form in subduction-related settings from large, long-lived magmatic systems. The most widely accepted model for their formation requires that mantle-derived magmas undergo an increase in volatiles and ore-forming constituents in mid- to lower crustal reservoirs over millions of years, however, this is mostly based on observations from shallow, sporadically exposed parts of porphyry systems. To examine this paradigm, we have evaluated the timeframe and geochemical signatures of magmatism in a ~ 8 km palaeodepth cross-section through plutonic and volcanic rocks of the classic Yerington magmatic system, Nevada. We show that the magmas in the upper parts of the system (< 8 km) underwent a major and rapid change in chemistry over a period of < 200 kyrs that is coincident with the initiation of ore formation. We attribute this change to a shift from extraction of quartz monzodiorite and quartz monzonite magmas evolving in mid-crustal reservoirs, and that had relatively poor ore-forming potential, to extraction of volatile-rich granitic magmas from greater (~ 30 km) depths. As the granites crystallised, late stage melts were intruded through the carapace as aplite dykes which contain traceable expressions of the porphyry deposit-forming fluids. The rapid nature of the shift in ore-forming potential narrows the temporal-geochemical footprint of magmas associated with porphyry mineralisation and provides new constraints for exploration models.


Carter, L. C., Tapster, S. R., Williamson, B. J., Buret, Y., Selby, D., Rollinson, G. K., …Parvaz, D. B. (2022). A rapid change in magma plumbing taps porphyry copper deposit-forming magmas. Scientific Reports, 12(1), Article 17272.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 9, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 14, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Jan 4, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 4, 2023
Journal Scientific Reports
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 1
Article Number 17272


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