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Title: A review of magnetite geochemistry of Chilean iron oxide-apatite (IOA) deposits and its implications for ore-forming processes
Magnetite is the most important iron ore in iron oxide-apatite (IOA) deposits which represent the Cu-poor endmember of the iron oxide-copper–gold (IOCG) clan. Magnetite chemistry has been used as a petrogenetic indicator to identify the geological environment of ore formation and as a fingerprint of the source reservoir of iron. In this study, we present new textural and microanalytical EPMA and LA-ICP-MS data of magnetite from Carmen, Fresia, Mariela and El Romeral IOA deposits located in the Cretaceous Coastal Cordillera of northern Chile. We also provide a comprehensive summary and discussion of magnetite geochemistry from Andean IOAs including Los Colorados, Cerro Negro Norte, El Romeral (Chilean Iron Belt) and the Pliocene El Laco IOA deposit located in the Central Volcanic Zone of the Chilean Andes. Microtextures coupled with geochemical data were used to define and characterize the occurrence of different magnetite types. Magnetite exhibits a variety of textural features including oscillatory zoning, colloform banding, re-equilibration textures, exsolution lamellae and symplectites. The magmatic vs. hydrothermal origin of the different magnetite types and the evolution of IOA deposits can be assessed using diagrams based on compatible trace elements. However, magnetite is very susceptible to hydrothermal alteration and to both textural and compositional re-equilibration during magmatic and superimposed hydrothermal events. Based on the data presented here, more » we conclude that V and Ga are possibly the most reliable compatible elements in magnetite to trace ore-forming processes in the Andean IOA deposits. Magnetite chemistry reveals different conditions/events of formation for each IOA deposit ranging from high-temperature, low-oxygen fugacity (ƒO2), purely magmatic (> 600 °C) conditions; to lower temperature and higher ƒO2 magmatic-hydrothermal (300–600 °C) to low-temperature hydrothermal (< 200–300 °C) conditions. Specifically, a continuous transition from high-temperature, low- ƒO2 conditions in the deepest portions of the deposits to low-temperature, relatively higher ƒO2 conditions towards surface are described for magnetite from El Laco. The new and compiled magnetite data from IOA deposits from the Chilean Iron Belt and El Laco are consistent with a transition from magmatic to hydrothermal conditions. The flotation model plausibly explains such features, which result from the crystallization of magnetite microlites from a silicate melt, nucleation and coalescence of aqueous fluid bubbles on magnetite surfaces, followed by ascent of a fluid-magnetite suspension along reactivated transtensional faults or through fissures formed during the collapse of the volcanic structure (El Laco). The decompression of the coalesced fluid-magnetite aggregates during ascent promotes the continued growth of magnetite microlites from the Fe-rich magmatic-hydrothermal fluid. As with any general genetic model, the flotation model allows variation and the definition of different styles or subtypes of IOA mineralization. The deeper, intrusive-like Los Colorados deposit shows contrasting features when compared with the Cerro Negro Norte hydrothermal type, the pegmatitic apatite-rich deposits of Carmen, Fresia and Mariela, and the shallow, subaerial deposits of El Laco. These apparent differences depend fundamentally on the depth of formation, the presence of structures and faults that trigger decompression, the composition of the host rocks, and the source and flux rate of hydrothermal fluids. « less
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Ore geology reviews
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National Science Foundation
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  1. The textures of outcrop and near-surface exposures of the massive magnetite orebodies (>90 vol % magnetite) at the Plio-Pleistocene El Laco iron oxide-apatite (IOA) deposit in northern Chile are similar to basaltic lava flows and have compositions that overlap high- and low-temperature hydrothermal magnetite. Existing models— liquid immiscibility and complete metasomatic replacement of andesitic lava flows—attempt to explain the genesis of the orebodies by entirely igneous or entirely hydrothermal processes. Importantly, those models were developed by studying only near-surface and outcrop samples. Here, we present the results of a comprehensive study of samples from outcrop and drill core that require a new model for the evolution of the El Laco ore deposit. Backscattered electron (BSE) imaging, electron probe microanalysis (EPMA), and laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) were used to investigate the textural and compositional variability of magnetite and apatite from surface and drill core samples in order to obtain a holistic understanding of textures and compositions laterally and vertically through the orebodies. Magnetite was analyzed from 39 surface samples from five orebodies (Cristales Grandes, Rodados Negros, San Vicente Alto, Laco Norte, and Laco Sur) and 47 drill core samples from three orebodies (Laco Norte, Laco Sur, andmore »Extensión Laco Sur). The geochemistry of apatite from eight surface samples from three orebodies (Cristales Grandes, Rodados Negros, and Laco Sur) was investigated. Minor and trace element compositions of magnetite in these samples are similar to magnetite from igneous rocks and magmatic-hydrothermal systems. Magnetite grains from deeper zones of the orebodies contain >1 wt % titanium, as well as ilmenite oxyexsolution lamellae and interstitial ilmenite. The ilmenite oxyexsolution lamellae, interstitial ilmenite, and igneous-like trace element concentrations in titanomagnetite from the deeper parts of the orebodies are consistent with original crystallization of titanomagnetite from silicate melt or high-temperature magmatic-hydrothermal fluid. The systematic decrease of trace element concentrations in magnetite from intermediate to shallow depths is consistent with progressive growth of magnetite from a cooling magmatic-hydrothermal fluid. Apatite grains from surface outcrops are F rich (typically >3 wt %) and have compositions that overlap igneous and magmatic-hydrothermal apatite. Magnetite and fluorapatite grains contain mineral inclusions (e.g., monazite and thorite) that evince syn- or postmineralization metasomatic alteration. Magnetite grains commonly meet at triple junctions, which preserve evidence for reequilibration of the ore minerals with hydrothermal fluid during or after mineralization. The data presented here are consistent with genesis of the El Laco orebodies via shallow emplacement and eruption of magnetite-bearing magmatic-hydrothermal fluid suspensions that were mobilized by decompression- induced collapse of the volcanic edifice. The ore-forming magnetite-fluid suspension would have rheological properties similar to basaltic lava flows, which explains the textures and presence of cavities and gas escape tubes in surface outcrops.« less
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