Late-stage fissure-filling ore at the world class Bingham Canyon, Utah, porphyry copper deposit has long been recognized, but poorly studied. Physical and chemical characterization of the Pb-Zn-Cu-Ag-Au mineralized fissures in the porphyry-epithermal transition zone provides insight into the origin, timing, and controls of ore deposition. These sheared sulfide-rich fissures are dominated by pyrite and multiple generations of quartz, with lesser amounts of other sulfides and gangue minerals. Au (0.27 to 4.61 ppm) provides the most value to the ore in the transition zone. Host rocks include Eocene monzonite and Paleozoic limestone and quartzite"”all of which can contain economic ore bodies. Associated alteration is predominantly sericitic and argillic. Mineralization into the wall rocks is restricted, not exceeding 1.5 m from the fissure margins. Mineral assemblages vary with distance from the center of the main Cu-Mo deposit and the modal abundances are dependent on host rock. The appearance of both galena and sphalerite (and tennantite to an extent) mark the transition from a porphyry to an epithermal environment. This is accompanied by an increased concentration of chalcophile trace elements in sulfides as determined by EMPA and LA-ICP-MS. Significant hosts of Ag include galena and tennantite, while Cu is hosted primarily in chalcopyrite, tennantite, and sphalerite. Gold does not appear to be hosted in solid solution, but may be focused along fractures or inclusions in pyrite. δ3434S values of fissure pyrite has a narrow range (+2.3 to 3.4‰), while δ18O of quartz is more variable and high (+11.5 to 14.0‰) relative to typical hydrothermal quartz. This can be explained by increased fractionation at lower temperatures in the magmatic fluids, which could have additionally mixed with exchanged 18O-rich meteoric water. Ore grades improve with distance from the center of the deposit; however, this is accompanied by higher concentrations of elements (Pb, As, Bi, etc.) undesirable for downstream processing. The mineralized fissures were created sequentially throughout the formation of the deposit. Initial joints probably formed as a result of the intrusion of a barren equigranular monzonite. The NE orientation of the joints was controlled by the regional stress field, which is more apparent distal to the center of the deposit. A quartz monzonite porphyry then intruded, dilating the joints to allow precipitation of quartz and then pyrite during the Cu-Au-stage of mineralization in the main ore body. After dike-like intrusions of latite porphyry and quartz latite porphyry intruded, galena, sphalerite, and pyrite precipitated to form the Pb-Zn-Ag mineralization. This was followed by late precipitation of chalcopyrite and tennantite (and likely Au mineralization).



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



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Bingham, porphyry copper, gold, fissure, base metal, Utah, vein, epithermal, LA-ICP-MS, transition