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Porphyry copper assessment of British Columbia and Yukon Territory, Canada: Chapter C in Global mineral resource assessment

Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5090-C

Prepared in cooperation with the British Columbia Geological Survey, Yukon Geological Survey, and XDM Geological Consultants, Inc.
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Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey does regional, national, and global assessments of resources (mineral, energy, water, biologic) to provide science in support of land management and decision making. Mineral resource assessments provide a synthesis of available information about where mineral deposits are known and suspected to be in the Earth’s crust, which commodities may be present, and estimates of amounts of resources that may be present in undiscovered deposits.

Canada is an important source of copper, consistently ranking as one of the top 10 world producers during the past decade (2000–2010). The preponderance of this production has been from porphyry-copper-type deposits in the western Canadian Cordillera. A probabilistic mineral resource assessment of undiscovered resources associated with porphyry copper deposits in western Canada was completed as part of a global mineral resource assessment. The purpose of the assessment was to (1) compile a database of known deposits and significant prospects, (2) delineate permissive areas (tracts) for undiscovered porphyry copper deposits that may be present in the upper kilometer (minimally) of the Earth’s crust, and (3) provide probabilistic estimates of amounts of copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), gold (Au), and silver (Ag) that could be contained in undiscovered porphyry copper deposits in the tracts. The study was done by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in collaboration with geologists from the British Columbia Geological Survey, Yukon Geological Survey, and industry consultants.

The database of known deposits and significant prospects includes an inventory of mineral resources in 89 known porphyry copper (and 2 related copper-bearing polymetallic vein) ore zones, representing 50 porphyry copper deposits, and lists key characteristics of 280 additional porphyry copper and related copper-bearing prospects, as indicated by currently available exploration results, which also are summarized. Resource and exploration and development activity are updated with information current through April 2010.

The delineation of permissive tracts and probabilistic estimation of resources in undiscovered deposits were done using the USGS three-part mineral resource assessment approach. Permissive tracts are defined in accordance with descriptive models for porphyry copper deposits to include igneous rocks and known deposits and prospects within magmatic arcs related to convergent plate-margin boundary zones. Frequency distributions of total tonnages and average grades of thoroughly explored deposits were used as models for undiscovered deposits and include a new grade and tonnage model for calc-alkaline porphyry Cu±Mo±Au deposits in western Canada.

Five permissive tracts for the occurrence of porphyry copper deposits were delineated: 2 island-arc tracts, 1 tract of transitional, mixed island-arc and continental arc affinities, and 2 continental arc tracts. In permissive tract 003pCu2001, calc-alkaline igneous rocks of Middle Triassic to Late Jurassic age in accreted island-arc terranes of the Intermontane belt are assessed for calc-alkaline porphyry Cu±Mo±Au deposits. The area of this tract is 175,250 km2. In 12 known deposits, the total reported tonnage of ore is 8,100 million metric tons (Mt) containing 24.6 Mt copper. An estimated 6.9 undiscovered deposits contain a calculated mean of 8.9 Mt copper and a median of 6.9 Mt copper. The spatial density for the 18.9 known plus estimated undiscovered deposits in this tract is approximately 11 deposits per 100,000 km2.

In permissive tract 003pCu2002, alkaline igneous rocks of Middle Triassic to Late Jurassic age within the Intermontane accreted island-arc terranes are assessed for alkaline porphyry Cu-Au deposits. The area of this tract is 109,290 km2. In 12 known deposits the total reported tonnage of ore is 6,440 Mt, containing 20.9 Mt copper. An estimated 7 undiscovered deposits contain a calculated mean of 22 Mt copper and a median of 13 Mt copper. The spatial density for the 19 known plus estimated undiscovered deposits in this tract is approximately 17 deposits per 100,000 km2.

In permissive tract 003pCu2003, calc-alkaline igneous rocks of Late Triassic to Early Cretaceous age within the accreted Insular terranes of mixed island-arc and continental arc affinities are assessed for calc-alkaline porphyry Cu±Mo±Au deposits. The area of this tract is 58,360 km2. The total tonnage of ore reported in the 2 known deposits is 1,160 Mt containing 3.17 Mt copper. An estimated 2.3 undiscovered deposits contain a calculated mean of 3 Mt copper and a median of 1.9 Mt copper. The spatial density for the 4.3 known plus estimated undiscovered deposits in this tract is approximately 7 deposits per 100,000 km2.

In permissive tract 003pCu2004, calc-alkaline igneous rocks in continental magmatic arcs of Jurassic to Eocene age are assessed for porphyry Cu±Mo±Au deposits. The area of this tract is 639,500 km2. The total tonnage of ore reported for the 23 known deposits is 6,520 Mt containing 17.9 Mt copper. An estimated 9.6 undiscovered deposits contain a calculated mean of 13 Mt copper and a median of 11 Mt copper. The spatial density for the 32.6 known deposits plus the estimated undiscovered deposits in this tract is approximately 5 deposits per 100,000 km2.

In permissive tract 003pCu2005, calc-alkaline igneous rocks in continental magmatic arcs of Oligocene to Pliocene age are assessed for porphyry Cu±Mo±Au deposits. The area of this tract is 32,840 km2. The total tonnage of ore reported for the 1 known deposit is 44.8 Mt containing 0.224 Mt copper. An estimated 1.4 undiscovered deposits contain a calculated mean of 1.8 Mt copper and a median of 0.72 Mt copper. The spatial density for the 2.4 known plus estimated undiscovered deposits in this permissive tract is approximately 7 deposits per 100,000 km2.

Western Canada has been thoroughly explored for porphyry copper deposits. The total estimated copper contained in known deposits is about 66.8 Mt (based on 2010 data), as compared to a 49 Mt mean of estimated copper in undiscovered deposits and a 34 Mt median of estimated copper in undiscovered deposits. The copper contained in known porphyry copper deposits represents about 58 percent of the total of known and undiscovered porphyry copper deposits (based on mean values). About 86 percent of the increase in estimated copper resources between 1993 and 2009 resulted from the discovery of extensions to known deposits. Nevertheless, exploration for undiscovered deposits continues, especially in and around significant prospects and in parts of permissive tracts that are mostly hidden beneath younger volcanic, sedimentary, or vegetated surficial cover.

Study Area

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Porphyry copper assessment of British Columbia and Yukon Territory, Canada: Chapter C in Global mineral resource assessment
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2010-5090
Chapter:
C
Edition:
Version 1.0: Originally posted October 2011; Version 1.1: February 2013
Year Published:
2011
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Mineral Resources Program
Description:
Report: x, 128 p.; Appendix F Table; Appendix H GIS Data
Larger Work Type:
Report
Larger Work Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title:
Global mineral resource assessment (Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5090)
Country:
Canada
State:
British Columbia, Yukon Territory
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files(Y/N):
Y