Hydrotermal Alteration Zones and Sulphur Deposits in Upper Cenozoic Vocanoes of Salar De Gorbea, Andes of Northern Chile

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 10
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
The segment of the Upper Cenozoic volcanic chain (CVZ) located on the western border of South America (16-28¦S lat.) is constituted by an association of strato- volcanoes and ignimbrite sheets, with high K calco-alkaline affinities. Strata-bound volcanoes, mainly of andesitic and dacitic composition, present along the whole chain, and various hydrothermal alteration zones, on the slopes and in the cores of eroded volcanic structures. Some of these altera- tion zones bear epithermal precious metal ores and sulphur deposits, which at present are being exploited. The studied Salar de Gorbea area, located in the Andes of northern Chile (25-26¦S lat.) contains a numer- ous group of Miocene to Quaternary stratovolcanoes, with advanced argillic and extreme silicification hydrothermal alteration in their cores and on their slopes, favoring the formation of great volumes of alunite within altered zones and sulphur deposits in the higher parts of the volcanic edifices. Simultaneously, siliceous hydrothermal breccia of the phreato-magmatic type, with evidences of hydromag- matic explosions are recognizable, allowing, in some cases, the ascent towards the surface of rock fragments belonging to the Paleozoic pre volcanic basement. Radiometric ages obtained in some of the hydro- thermal alteration zones (K-Ar in alunite) are slighty young- er than the unaltered rocks which constitute the strato- volcano. Trace element (Hg, As, Sb, S, Au, Ag, Cu, Pb, Zn, Mo) patterns in orientative rock samplings show that the studied alterations zones correspond to high sectors of the cpithermal system, without evidences of metallic minerali- zation on surface. The weak erosive action due to the ex- tremely and climatic conditions in this segment of the Andes, has not allowed the cropping out of deeper areas of the hydrothermal alteration zones, in contrast to other Miocene more eroded volcanic edifices and Miocene vol- canic terranes of the Andean Range.
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