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Richards (2003) Metallogeny of the Neo-Tethys arc in central Iran.pdf

Richards (2003) Metallogeny of the Neo-Tethys arc in central Iran.pdf

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In this article Jeremy Richards gives a brief description of the paleogeography of Iran and discusses the possibility of existence of more porphyry and epithermal gold deposits on the Urumiah-Dokhtar magmatic arc.
In this article Jeremy Richards gives a brief description of the paleogeography of Iran and discusses the possibility of existence of more porphyry and epithermal gold deposits on the Urumiah-Dokhtar magmatic arc.

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Metallogeny of the Neo-Tethys arc in central Iran
J.P. Richards
 Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2E3, Canada Jeremy.Richards@UAlberta.CA
Keywords: Tethys, Iran, metallogeny, porphyry copper deposits, epithermal gold depositsABSTRACT: Cenozoic closure of the Neo-Tethys oceans between Arabia and Eurasia resulted in the colli-sional juxtaposition of several small microcontinental blocks separated by ophiolite-bearing suture zones incentral Iran. Pre-collisional Eocene–Miocene subduction-related magmatism is best developed in the Uru-mieh-Dokhtar belt along the northern margin of Neo-Tethys II, and several large porphyry copper deposits arelocated in this belt. Syn- or post-collisional alkalic magmatism scattered throughout the orogen offers poten-tial for epithermal gold mineralization.1INTRODUCTIONIran features several major volcano-plutonic belts re-lated to closure of oceanic basins between the Eura-sian and Afro-Arabian continental masses in theMesozoic and Cenozoic. Several large porphyrycopper deposits (Sar Cheshmeh, Meiduk, Sungun)are associated with these magmatic belts, and the po-tential for epithermal gold mineralization is high.Geologically, the region resembles the southwestPacific more than the Andean arc, because it appearsthat many of the plate interactions involve elimina-tion of small ocean basins between continental blocks and microplates, rather than protracted sub-duction beneath a cratonic margin. Closure is largelycomplete in Iran, although to the southeast in theGulf of Oman oceanic crust is still subducting be-neath the Makran. Collision between Eurasia andArabia is at an early stage, reflected by the Zagrosfold-and-thrust belt and active tectonism in centraland northern Iran. Uplift and erosion associated withthis tectonism has exposed epizonal and mesozonal(porphyry) systems at the surface in central Iran,making this a prospective area for exploration.2GEOLOGY OF CENTRAL IRANThe Neo-Tethys ocean was formed in response tothe breakup of Gondwana, and effectively separatedAfrica from Eurasia. In Iran, the breakup is believedto have featured at least two oceanic sub-basins(Neo-Tethys I and Neo-Tethys II) separated bysmaller continental microplates (e.g., the Lut Block,and Sanandaj-Sirjan Zone; Fig. 1; Hooper et al.,1994; Glennie, 2000). These ocean basins have beendestroyed by convergence since the late Mesozoic,and evidence for their existence has been variablyinterpreted from the presence of dismemberedophiolitic sequences scattered throughout centralIran (e.g., Stoneley, 1981).
Figure 1. Plate-tectonic map of the Tethyan belt from Turkeyto Pakistan (modified from Glennie, 2000). Areas shown indark grey contain ophiolitic fragments and are believed to rep-resent former oceanic areas separating continental blocks(shown in lighter grey). Areas in coarse stipple are cratonic blocks.
The present-day geology of central Iran can bedivided into several NW–SE-trending belts that par-allel the paleo-Tethyan margin (Alavi, 1994): to theSW, the Persian Gulf represents a depression in the
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Arabian cratonic margin in advance of the collisionzone. This margin is overthrust by Mesozoic– Paleogene supracrustal rocks of the Zagros fold-and-thrust belt, in which ophiolitic fragments are found.To the NE of the Zagros belt lies the Sanandaj-SirjanZone, a structurally complex belt of Late Paleozoic– Mesozoic rocks that includes some Hercynianmetamorphic (greenschist–amphibolite) assem- blages. The NE margin of the Sanandaj-Sirjan Zonefeatures a series of basins that are interpreted to beforearc depressions, laterally equivalent to theMakran (e.g., Stoneley, 1974, 1981; Farhoudi andKarig, 1977; Farhoudi, 1978; McCall and Kidd,1982; Alavi, 1994; Glennie, 2000). Ophiolitic frag-ments occur sparsely in this belt, which is thought torepresent the locus of Neo-Tethys II suture (Fig. 1).The main volcano-plutonic arc, known as theUrumieh-Dokhtar Belt, forms a narrow NW–SE-trending range of high ground to the north of theforearc depression that stretches the length of Iran(Fig. 2). Magmatism began in the Eocene, and con-tinued into the Quaternary in a series of pulses. Thestyle of magmatism has varied in both space andtime along the belt, and includes typical calc-alkaline arc volcanics, shoshonitic suites, and localalkalic centres. Recent volcanic activity appears toreflect post-collisional tectono-magmatic processes,and includes the most alkalic suites. The main por- phyry copper deposits in the belt, Sar Cheshmeh andMeiduk, are of Middle Miocene age. The Urumieh-Dokhtar Belt is bounded to the NE by a zone of ma- jor faults with Neogene dextral displacements; at the NW end of the belt in northwestern Iran, the belt ap- pears to be dismembered by a series of NE-trendingcross-faults, and geological reconstructions becomevery unclear.
Figure 2. Sketch map or Iran showing the Urumieh-Dokhtar  belt and porphyry Cu deposits (from Shahabpour, 1994).
The Lut block of central Iran appears to have been a stable cratonic block throughout this period,although extensive Eocene volcanism occursthroughout the area (Jung et al., 1984). Ophioliticslivers at the margins of the block suggest the former existence of small ocean basins.The northern border of Iran is marked by another extensive magmatic belt, the Alborz, which stretchesin a sinuous arc from Azerbaijan, along the southernmargin of the Caspian Sea, wrapping over the north-ern edge of the Lut Block, and continuing into Af-ghanistan (Axen et al., 2001). Central Iran is thus bordered to the north and south by magmatic belts,of presumed subduction origin. The two belts con-verge in NW Iran, but the geology is complicated byextensive collision-related faulting. The MioceneSungun porphyry deposit occurs in this region, aswell as two large Neogene volcanic centres, Sahandand Sabalan.3TECTONIC FRAMEWORK OF CENTRALIRANInterpretations of the tectonic framework of centralIran vary widely, from intra-cratonic models, to sin-gle or double subduction zone models. The Uru-mieh-Dokhtar Belt is the only obvious volcanic arcin this region, although Cenozoic magmatism occurslocally to the south in the Sanandaj-Sirjan Zone, andto the north (Anarak region). Glennie (2000) pro- posed the existence of two Neo-Tethys oceans, I andII, to the south and north of the Sanandaj-SirjanZone respectively Fig. 1). The Sanandaj-Sirjan Zoneis believed to be a continental fragment rifted fromthe Arabian margin in the Late Permian or Triassic(Hooper et al., 1994; Glennie, 2000).Closure of Neo-Tethys I began in the Early Cre-taceous in response to South Atlantic opening, andthe suture zone may now be represented by the MainZagros Thrust. Continued contractional deformationsince this time has complicated relationships in theZagros belt, however, such that the exact location of the suture zone is hard to define. Neo-Tethys II be-gan subduction to the north beneath the Urumieh-Dokhtar arc in the Late Cretaceous or Paleocene,and arc magmatism became extensive in the Eocene,continuing through the Miocene. Porphyry copper intrusive activity in the Urumieh-Dokhtar Belt oc-curred towards the end of this period in the MiddleMiocene, and appears to represent the final phase of arc magmatism prior to collision.Final closure of Neo-Tethys II was probably adiachronous event, with docking perhaps beginningin the Miocene in the NW. To the SE, docking hasnot yet occurred, and oceanic lithosphere still exists beneath the Gulf of Oman (Jacob & Quittmeyer,1979).
1238J.P. Richards
 
4CENOZOIC METALLOGENIC POTENTIALOF CENTRAL IRANCenozoic mineralization in central Iran can beviewed within the Neo-Tethyan tectonic framework outlined above, from which it is clear that the main period of porphyry copper formation occurred dur-ing the later stages of subduction-related magmaticactivity in the Urumieh-Dokhtar arc. Good geologi-cal exposure in the core of this belt means that mostoutcropping porphyry systems have already beendiscovered. However, there is potential for explora-tion beneath Pliocene–Quaternary cover at the mar-gins of the belt.Perhaps of greater potential, however, is explora-tion for epithermal styles of mineralization, particu-larly of the alkalic-gold type associated with post-subduction or collisional tectonics (Richards, 1995).Mildly to highly alkalic volcano-plutonic systemsare scattered widely throughout central Iran, and arenot restricted to the narrow Urumieh-Dokhtar arc.Understanding these deposits, or predicting their oc-currence, will require a considerably more detailedknowledge of the tectonomagmatic framework thanis currently available for this region.5CONCLUSIONSCentral Iran marks the locus of collision between theArabian and Eurasian plates following subduction of the Neo-Tethys ocean. This collision was multi-stage and diachronous, involving the elimination of at least two small oceanic plates (Neo-Tethys I andII) during the Cenozoic. Porphyry copper depositsare associated with pre-collisional arc magmatism,and there is potential for alkalic-type gold and other styles of epithermal mineralization in associationwith post-subduction alkalic magmatism. The geol-ogy of this region is not well known, however, andits mineralization potential has not yet been thor-oughly tested using modern exploration techniques.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI am grateful to Rio Tinto Mining & Exploration for field and logistical support while visiting Iran in thesummer of 2002. In particular, I would like to thank  Neil McLaurin, John Bartram, Hossein Iranmanesh,Esmaeil Heidari, Hooshang Asadi, Kambiz Moha- jeran, and Faranak Parvinpour. Brent McInnes isthanked for stimulating discussions in the field.REFERENCES
Alavi, M. 1994. Tectonics of the Zagros orogenic belt of Iran:new data and interpretations.
Tectonophysics
Vol. 229:211–238.Axen, G.J., Lam, P.S., Grove, M., Stockli, D.F. & Hassan-zadeh, J. 2001. Exhumation of the west-central AlborzMountains, Iran, Caspian subsidence, and collision-relatedtectonics.
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Spec. Publ. No. 69: 9– 20.Hooper, R.J., Baron, I., Hatcher, R.D. & Agah, S. 1994. Thedevelopment of the southern Tethyan margin in Iran after the break-up of Gondwana — Implications for the Zagroshydrocarbon province.
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Vol. 4: 72–85.Jacob, K.H. & Quittmeyer, R.L. 1979. The Makran region of Pakistan and Iran: trench–arc system with active plate sub-duction. In Farah, A. & De Jong, K.A. (eds.),
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