Temporal evolution of the Laramide arc: U-Pb geochronology of plutons associated with porphyry copper mineralization in east-central Arizona

Eric Seedorff, Mark D. Barton, George E. Gehrels, Victor A. Valencia, David A. Johnson, David J. Maher, William J.A. Stavast, Timothy M. Marsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


We describe the time-space evolution of a segment of the Laramide arc in eastcentral Arizona that is associated with porphyry copper mineralization, as constrained by U-Pb zircon geochronology conducted by laser ablation-multicollector-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. Mid-Cenozoic normal faulting dismembered and tilted many of the plutons and the associated porphyry copper deposits and produced a wide range in depths of exposure. The study area reconstructs to a 75-km-long slice along the arc, with exposures from <1 to >10 km depth. The copper deposits are related to granodioritic to granitic plutons that exhibit variable magmatic sources and locally severe degrees of zircon inheritance. U-Pb zircon ages of plutons in the study area range from 75 to 61 Ma, with dioritic rocks at the older end of the range. The age range of magmatism and mineralization in a cluster of deposits near the Schultze Granite, including the Globe-Miami, Pinto Valley, and Resolution deposits, is from ca. 69-61 Ma. To the south in the Tortilla and Dripping Spring Mountains, the porphyry systems range from ca. 74 Ma at Kelvin- Riverside to ca. 69 Ma at Ray and ca. 65 Ma at Christmas. At several localities where geologic constraints exist, mineralizing plutons were emplaced following Laramide shortening. The ages of the inherited zircon cores correspond fairly closely to the ages of basement rocks in the immediate vicinity of sample sites, implying that similar basement ages and lithologies contributed to the source areas of magmas that produced Laramide porphyry deposits. The U-Pb results on hypabyssal rocks are typically 1-5 m.y. older than previous K-Ar ages, and U-Pb ages on more deeply emplaced plutonic rocks are as much as 5-10 m.y. older. These results are consistent with predictions from thermal modeling and suggest that temporal evolution of the entire Laramide arc needs revision. For this segment of the arc, magmatism was stagnant for ~15 m.y., with minimal migration over time and mineralization occurring episodically over most of that lifespan. There is no simple geographic progression in ages along or across the strike of the arc. Thus, it is difficult to call upon time-specific far-field or plate margin triggers for magmatism or mineralization. The intrusive flux of the Laramide arc appears to be similar to that of the Sierra Nevada arc during the Mesozoic during its "background"periods, rather than during episodes of flare-up. The wide compositional diversity of the Laramide arc is more akin to northeastern Nevada during the onset of extension in the mid-Cenozoic than to the Mesozoic of the Sierra Nevada.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-400
Number of pages32
JournalGSA Field Guides
StatePublished - Sep 4 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Stratigraphy
  • Palaeontology


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