Diverse latest Pliocene volcanic and plutonic rocks in the north-central Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia are newly interpreted as components of a large caldera system that erupted a compositionally zoned rhyolite-dacite ash-flow sheet at 2.83 ?? 0.02 Ma (sanidine and biotite 40Ar/39Ar). Despite its location within a cratonic collision zone, the Chegem system is structurally and petrologically similar to typical calderas of continental-margin volcanic arcs. Erosional remnants of the outflow Chegem Tuff sheet extend at least 50 km north from the source caldera in the upper Chegem River. These outflow remnants were previously interpreted by others as erupted from several local vents, but petrologic similarities indicate a common origin and correlation with thick intracaldera Chegem Tuff. The 11 ?? 15 km caldera and associated intrusions are superbly exposed over a vertical range of 2,300 m in deep canyons above treeline (elev. to 3,800 m). Densely welded intracaldera Chegem Tuff, previously described by others as a rhyolite lava plateau, forms a single cooling unit, is > 2 km thick, and contains large slide blocks from the caldera walls. Caldera subsidence was accommodated along several concentric ring fractures. No prevolcanic floor is exposed within the central core of the caldera. The caldera-filling tuff is overlain by andesitic lavas and cut by a 2.84 ?? 0.03-Ma porphyritic granodiorite intrusion that has a cooling age analytically indistinguishable from that of the tuffs. The Eldjurta Granite, a pluton exposed low in the next large canyon (Baksan River) 10 km to the northwest of the caldera, yields variable K-feldspar and biotite ages (2.8 to 1.0 Ma) through a 5-km vertical range in surface and drill-hole samples. These variable dates appear to record a prolonged complex cooling history within upper parts of another caldera-related pluton. Major W-Mo ore deposits at the Tirniauz mine are hosted in skarns and hornfels along the roof of the Eldjurta Granite, and associated aplitic phases have textural features of Climax-type molybdenite porphyries in the western USA. Similar 40Ar/39Ar ages, mineral chemistry, and bulk-rock compositions indicate that the Chegem Tuff, intracaldera intrusion, and Eldjurta Granite are all parts of a large magmatic system that broadly resembles the middle Tertiary Questa caldera system and associated Mo deposits in northern New Mexico, USA. Because of their young age and superb three-dimensional exposures, rocks of the Chegem-Tirniauz region offer exceptional opportunities for detailed study of caldera structures, compositional gradients in volcanic rocks relative to cogenetic granites, and the thermal and fluid-flow history of a large young upper-crustal magmatic system. ?? 1993.
Additional publication details
2.8-Ma ash-flow caldera at Chegem River in the northern Caucasus Mountains (Russia), contemporaneous granites, and associated ore deposits