The Christmas copper deposit, located in southern Gila County, Arizona, is part of the major porphyry copper province of southwestern North America. Although Christmas is known for skarn deposits in Paleozoic carbonate rocks, ore-grade porphyry-type copper mineralization also occurs in a composite granodioritic intrusive complex and adjacent mafic volcanic country rocks. This study considers the nature, distribution, and genesis of alteration-mineralization in the igneous rock environment at Christmas.
At the southeast end of the Dripping Spring Mountains, the Pennsylvanian Naco Limestone is unconformably overlain by the Cretaceous Williamson Canyon Volcanics, a westward-thinning sequence of basaltic volcanic breccia and lava flows, and subordinate clastic sedimentary rocks. Paleozoic and Mesozoic strata are intruded by Laramide-age dikes, sills, and small stocks of hornblende andesite porphyry and hornblende rhyodacite porphyry, and the mineralized Christmas intrusive complex.
Rocks of the elongate Christmas stock, intruded along an east-northeast-trending fracture zone, are grouped into early, veined quartz diorite (Dark Phase), biotite granodiorite porphyry (Light Phase), and granodiorite; and late, unveined dacite porphyry and granodiorite porphyry. Biotite rhyodacite porphyry dikes extending east and west from the vicinity of the stock are probably coeval with biotite granodiorite porphyry. Accumulated normal displacement of approximately 1 km along the northwest-trending Christmas-Joker fault system has juxtaposed contrasting levels (lower, intrusive-carbonate rock environment and upper, intrusive-volcanic rock environment) within the porphyry copper system.
K-Ar age determinations and whole-rock chemical analyses of the major intrusive rock types indicate that Laramide calc-alkaline magmatism and ore deposition at Christmas evolved over an extended period from within the Late Cretaceous (~75-80 m.y. ago) to early Paleocene (~63-61 m.y. ago). The sequence of igneous rocks is progressively more alkaline and silicic from basalt to granodiorite. Early (Stage I) chalcopyrite-bornite (-molybdenite) mineralization and genetically related K-silicate alteration are centered on the Christmas stock. K-silicate alteration is manifested by pervasive hornblende-destructive biotitization in the stock, biotitization of basaltic volcanic wall rocks, and a continuous stockwork of K-feldspar veinlets and quartz-K-feldspar veins in the stock and quartz-sulfide veins in volcanic rocks. Younger (Stage II) pyrite-chalcopyrite mineralization and quartz-sericite-chlorite alteration occur in a zone overlapping with but largely peripheral to the zone of Stage I stockwork veins. Within the Christmas intrusive complex, K-silicate-altered rocks in the central stock are flanked east and west by zones of fracture-controlled quartz-sericite alteration and strong pyritization. In volcanic rocks quartz-chlorite-pyrite-chalcopyrite veins are superimposed on earlier biotitization and crosscut Stage I quartz-sulfide veins. Beyond the zones of quartz-sericite alteration, biotite rhyodacite porphyry dikes contain the propylitic alteration assemblage epidote-chlorite-albite-sphene.
Chemical analyses indicate the following changes during pervasive alteration of igneous rocks: (1) addition of Si, K, H, S, and Cu, and loss of Fe 3+ and Ca during intense biotitization of basalt; (2) loss of Na and Ca, increase of Fe3+/Fe2+, and strong H-metasomatism during sericitization of quartz diorite; and (3) increase in Ca, Na, and Fe3+/Fe2+, and loss of K during intense propylitization of biotite rhyodacite porphyry dikes. Thorough biotitization of biotite granodiorite porphyry in the Christmas stock was largely an isochemical process.
Fluid-inclusion petrography reveals that Stage I veins are characterized by low to moderate populations of moderate-salinity and gas-rich inclusions, and sparse but ubiquitous halite-bearing inclusions. Moderate-salinity an
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Geology and porphyry copper-type alteration-mineralization of igneous rocks at the Christmas Mine, Gila County, Arizona
U.S. Geological Survey,
xiii, 196 p. :ill., maps (6 fold. in pocket) ;28 cm.