Quantitative Mineralogical Study Of Ore Domains At Bingham Canyon, Utah, USA ? Introduction - Preprint 09-108

Ross, J.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2009
This geometallurgical study examines the gangue mineral variability at the Bingham Canyon porphyry copper mine in Utah. Understanding an orebody?s mineralogy is important for mine and mill planning because it provides information on the size, texture, and distribution of ore minerals, the relationship between ore and gangue minerals, and the extent and type of alteration. Quantification of the mineralogical variability and properties of an orebody provides valuable input to the ore model and may have a significant effect on recovery optimization. This study was designed to be carried out on an initially detailed scale in order to develop a robust methodology for measuring and quantifying specific parameters, such as the distribution of mineral phases, alteration assemblages and fractures from key ore domains at the Bingham Canyon mine (Figure 1). Details of the methodology are reported below. This technique can be applied to testing the impact of mineralogy on a number of processing parameters. [ ] Figure 1. Ore domain map of Bingham Canyon (Kennecott Utah Copper, 2003) showing the 33 geometallurgical ore domains. The samples for this study were collected from the northwest part of the deposit circled on the map. PROJECT BACKGROUND Geology The Bingham Canyon deposit is a large porphyry Cu-Mo-Au deposit with associated skarn and base-metal replacement deposits mined in an open-pit mine measuring about 2.5 miles across and 4,000 feet deep. The deposit is hosted by the Bingham Stock, a Late Eocene to Mid-Oligocene intrusive complex. The skarn is hosted by the Late Carboniferous-age Bingham Mine Formation, which is comprised of quartzites and basal limestones (Babcock Jr. et al., 1998). The Bingham Stock is a composite intrusive complex that was emplaced over a period of about two million years. The oldest phase is described as a fine-grained equigranular monzonite (MZ), which intruded the country rocks at 39.8 ± 0.4 Ma (U-Pb zircon TIMS age) (Parry et al., 2001). Subsequently, the quartz monzonite porphyry (QMP) was emplaced, followed by intrusion of a latite porphyry (LP). The final intrusive phase, which forms narrow dikes that crosscut the Bingham Stock, is represented by a quartz latite porphyry (QLP), which is dated to 37.5 ± 0.4 Ma by 40Ar/39Ar dating of sanidine (Deino and Keith, 1998). Also present, are a minette dike in contact with a QLP dike (Waite et al., 1998; Deino and Keith, 1998), and a biotite porphyry (BP), a quartz latite porphyry breccia (QLPbx), and a pebble dike (Redmond, 2002). The copper orebody is centered above the Bingham Stock and forms an inverted cup shape with three high-grade copper zones extending to depth. Molybdenite mineralization occurs within and extends below the copper orebody, but is not correlated with copper mineralization. The main sulfide assemblage is chalcopyrite, bornite, molybdenite, and pyrite. Gold is locally intergrown with chalcopyrite and bornite (Babcock Jr. et al., 1998; Phillips et al., 1998). The surrounding country rocks host skarn deposits with three main ore types - garnet skarns, massive sulfides, and iron oxides. The garnet skarns contain chalcopyrite and pyrite with magnetite veins. In the massive sulfides chalcopyrite and pyrite occur either in banded sulfides or in unconsolidated microbreccias. The iron oxides contain disseminated chalcopyrite with minor chalcocite and bornite (Harrison and Reid, 1998). The deposit is overprinted by several stages of alteration. Potassic alteration is concentrated at the center of the deposit. It is surrounded and partially overlapped by a propylitic alteration zone. Both zones are overprinted by sericitic alteration. In the northern part of the deposit evidence for argillic alteration can be found (Bowman et al., 1987). Similarly, the skarn deposit was also overprinted by several stages of alteration: wollastonite, idocrase, and garnet in cherty limestones, and quartz and diopside forming in calcareous quartzites. Distally, diopside was replaced by talc, tremolite, dolomite, secondary calcite, and pyrite, and quartz and sulfide veinlets with biotite and actinolite selvages are present. Andradite garnet, diopside, quartz, magnetite, hematite, and copper sulfides were overprinted by wollastonite (Babcock Jr. et al., 1998). Because the monzonite, quartz monzonite porphyry, latite porphyry, and quartz latite porphyry host the bulk of the mineralization, our research is focused on these lithologic units. Geometallurgy On the basis of geological (lithology, alteration assemblages, fracture density, copper mineralization) and metallurgical properties, the deposit has been divided into 33 ore domains by mine geologists and metallurgists (Figure 1). In map view, these domains cross geologically defined boundaries (MZ, QMP etc.). These domains reflect regions of the deposit that have particular, mapable attributes or properties. They reflect a combination of geological and mineralogical characteristics that combine to impact processing. Alteration, for example, as shown by talc mineralization, is one such key feature. Hardness may reflect the absence of sericitic but presence of potassic alteration. Structural discontinuities such as faulting, fracturing, or development of void
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