The Castrovirreyna mining district lies in the Andean Cordillera of South Central Peru, and has been worked sporadically since its discovery in 1591. Supergene silver ores were first mined. Currently the district produces about 20,000 tons of lead-zinc ore and 5000 tons of silver ore annually.
The district is underlain by Tertiary andesitic rocks interbedded with basalts and intruded by small bodies of quartz latite porphyry. The terrane reflects recent glaciation and is largely covered by glacial debris.
The ore deposits are steeply dipping veins that strike N. 60? E. to S. 50? E., and average 60 centimeters wide and 300 meters long. The principal veins are grouped around three centers, lying 5 kilometers apart along a line striking N. 55? E. They are, from east to west: San Genaro, Caudalosa, and La Virreyna. A less important set of veins, similarly aligned, lies 2 kilometers to the north. Most of the veins were worked to depths of about 30 meters, the limit of supergene enrichment; but in the larger veins hypogene ores have been worked to depths of over 150 meters.
Galena, sphalerite, chalcopyrite, and tetrahedrite are common to all veins, but are most abundant in the westernmost veins at La Virreyna. In the center of the district, around Caudalosa, land sulfantimonides are the commonest ore minerals, and at the eastern end, around San Genaro and Astohuaraca, silver sulfosalts predominate.
Supergene enrichment of silver is found at shallow depths in all deposits. Silver at San Genaro, however, was concentrated towards the surface by migration along hypogene physico-chemical gradients in time and space, as vein material was reworked by mineralizing fluids. The pattern of wallrock alteration throughout the district grades from silicification and scricitization adjacent to the veins, through argillization and propylitization, to widespread chloritization farther away.
Mineralization can be divided into three stages:
1) Preparatory stage, characterized by silicification and pyritization;
2) Depositional stage, characterized by the deposition of base-metal sulfides; and
3) Reworking stage, characterized by the formation of lead sulfantimonides from galena at Caudalosa, and the deposition of silver sulfide and sulfosalts at San Genaro.
Maximum temperatures, indicated by the wurtzite-sphalerite, famatinite-energite and chalcopyrite-sphalerite assemblages, did not exceed 350? C. The low iron content of sphalerite suggests that most of the base-metal sulfides were deposited below 250? C. The colloidal habits of pyrite and quartz in the preparatory and reworking stages imply relatively low temperatures of deposition, probably between 50? C and 100? C.
Mineralization was shallow and pressures ranged from 17 atmospheres in the silver deposits to over 45 atmospheres in the lead sulfantimonide deposits.
Mineralization at Castrovirreyna represents an open chemical system in which mineralizing fluids constantly modified the depositional environment while they themselves underwent modification. The deposits formed under nonequilibrium conditions from fluids containing complex ions and colloids. Reworking and migration along persistent physico-chemical gradients in time and space, from a deep source to the west concentrated base-metal sulfides in the western half, lead-antimony minerals in the center, and silver-antimony minerals in the eastern part of the district. Silver, antimony, and bismuth were kept in solution as complex ions until low temperature and pressure prevailed. They document in situ reworking by reacting with existing minerals.
Physico-chemical gradients controlled the type of minerals deposited, whereas vein structure controlled the quantity deposited.
Vein fissures formed by the equivalent of from east-west compression during Andean orogenesis and mineralization probably came from the underlying Andean Batholith.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
The geology, mineralogy and paragenesis of the Castrovirreyna lead-zinc-silver deposits, Peru