Granitic magmatism and metallogeny of southwestern North America

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In southwestern North America, late Palaeozoic through Cenozoic granitoids and their related mineral deposits show consistent patterns that can be interpreted in terms of combined provincial, exposure and process controls. Voluminous Cordilleran magmatism began in the Permian and continued with few major interruptions through the Mesozoic and Cenozoic, reaching maximum fluxes in the mid-Jurassic, Late Cretaceous and Oligocene. Two distinctive types of broad-scale igneous suites formed. The first type consists of calc-alkaline to alkaline suites that vary regularly with time from early intermediate-mafic centres to late felsic centres over intervals lasting 20-50 Ma. These suites formed during periods of stable convergence and compressional tectonics, most notably in the late Mesozoic and early-mid-Cenozoic. The second type is compositionally varied, but shows no obvious secular variation in composition. This type formed during neutral to extensional tectonics in the mid-Mesozoic and the mid- to late Cenozoic. Regional (west to east) and secular (old to young) changes from calcic to alkalic compositions do not correspond to basement types; they point to tectonic rather than crustal controls on magmatic evolution, although basement signatures are clearly transmitted in isotopic systematics. Contrasting types of intrusive centres formed in the same lithospheric columns, suggesting that variability reflects thermal and stress regimes, subcrustal magma flux and crustal thickness. Simple thermal and mechanical models of limits on assimilation and magma uprise are broadly consistent with these patterns. Igneous-related mineralisation is ubiquitous where epizonal environments are preserved, thus preservation (and exposure) form the first-order filter on metallogeny. Mineralisation includes porphyry, skarn, epithermal, replacement and syngenetic deposits of widely varying styles, metal contents and links to magmatic heat and materials. Metal contents and alteration styles correlate closely with igneous compositions and are broadly independent of setting, although systematic regional variations in metal ratios are documented. Ore element suites vary from Cu-Au-Fe associated with (quartz) dioritic to monzonitic intrusive centres through Cu-Zn-Mo-Pb-Ag-W-Au associated with broadly granodioritic centres, and finally to F-Mo-Zn-W-Ag-Be associated with metaluminous to strongly peraluminous granitic centres. A model that includes both composition and process controls rationalises this igneous correlation and the lack of strong regional control. Key features are (1) mineralogical controls on fluid compositions and (2) the efficacy of magmatic processes in producing voluminous ore-forming aqueous fluids. This interpretation is supported by field relationships, igneous petrographic and isotopic data, and theoretical considerations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-280
Number of pages20
JournalTransactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Earth Sciences
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1996


  • Cordillera
  • Granite
  • Hydrothermal processes
  • Isotopes
  • Ore deposits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology


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