Geological Setting and Characteristics of the Red Chris Porphyry Copper-gold Deposit, Northwestern British Columbia

Exploration & Mining Geology, Vol. 6, No. 4, 1997

The Red Chris Cu-Au deposit (522.7 Mt at 0.35% Cu and 0.27 g/t Au), northwestern British Columbia, is one of several pre-accretionary porphyry systems in the Cordillera of western Canada. It is hosted by an Early Jurassic hornblende monzonite to quartz monzodiorite porphyry which forms part of a suite of dikes and stocks that intrude Late Triassic volcanic strata. Major and trace element chemical data suggest that these Early Jurassic intrusions have compositions which fall on the boundary between alkalic and calc-alkalic compositions. Alteration and mineralization in the Red Chris deposit are more typical of calc-alkaline porphyry systems with abundant potassic, sericitic and argillic assemblages and quartz-rich stockworks. It lacks Na- and Ca-bearing silicate assemblages which characterize the alkalic porphyry deposits of British Columbia. One of the more unusual features of the deposit is the abundance of carbonate alteration and veins which occur throughout the hydrothermal history of the deposit. This type of alteration and veining is more typical of alkalic porphyry deposits. The composition of the carbonates vary both temporally and spatially with different alteration zones. Potassic zones, which are characterized by orthoclase±albite±quartz±chalcopyrite±bornit± magnetite±hematite and Au/Cu ratios of 1:1 (g/t Au:% Cu), contain minor siderite veins and alteration. Quartz-sericite-carbonate (QSC) zones overprint earlier potassic alteration and comprise quartz+ankerite+sericite+pyrite+chalcopyrite with Au/Cu ratios of 0.5:1 (g/t Au:% Cu). Ankerite is the main carbonate in this stage but has a variable composition with a more Fe-rich variety associated with mineralized veins. Localized chlorite-carbonate alteration zones, characterized by chlorite+carbonate+quartz±kaolinite±pyrite±gypsum and high Au/Cu ratios [2 to 3.5:1; (g/t Au:% Cu)], contain predominantly calcite. Late stage carbonate-gypsum veins have an ankerite to dolomite composition which is very similar to the regional carbonate alteration and veins.
Keywords: Red Chris deposit, Cu-Au deposit, Porphyry, Carbonate