Copper isotopic zonation in the Northparkes porphyry Cu-Au deposit, SE Australia

Weiqiang Li*, Simon E. Jackson, Norman J. Pearson, Stuart Graham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


Significant, systematic Cu isotopic variations have been found in the Northparkes porphyry Cu-Au deposit, NSW, Australia, which is an orthomagmatic porphyry Cu deposit. Copper isotope ratios have been measured in sulfide minerals (chalcopyrite and bornite) by both solution and laser ablation multi-collector inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (MC-ICP-MS). The results from both methods show a variation in δ65Cu of hypogene sulfide minerals of greater than 1‰ (relative to NIST976). Significantly, the results from four drill holes through two separate ore bodies show strikingly similar patterns of Cu isotope variation. The patterns are characterized by a sharp down-hole decrease from up to 0.8‰ (0.29±0.56‰, 1σ, n=20) in the low-grade peripheral alteration zones (phyllic-propylitic alteration zone) to a low of ~-0.4‰ (-0.25±0.36‰, 1σ, n=30) at the margins of the most mineralized zones (Cu grade >1wt%). In the high-grade cores of the systems, the compositions are more consistent at around 0.2‰ (0.19±0.14‰, 1σ, n=40). The Cu isotopic zonation may be explained by isotope fractionation of Cu between vapor, solution and sulfides at high temperature, during boiling and sulfide precipitation processes. Sulfur isotopes also show an isotopically light shell at the margins of the high-grade ore zones, but these are displaced from the low δ65Cu shells, such that there is no correlation between the Cu and S isotope signatures. Fe isotope data do not show any discernable variation along the drill core. This work demonstrates that Cu isotopes show a large response to high-temperature porphyry mineralizing processes, and that they may act as a vector to buried mineralization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4078-4096
Number of pages19
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


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