PhD defense of Steven Kahou

Steven Kahou, a PhD student of the GET,  defended his PhD of the University Toulouse III  at GET last Friday. The PhD was entitled “Petrogeochemical characterization of supergene copper mineralization in Atacama (Northern Chile): U-Pb chronometric potential and formation conditions” and was supervised by Stéphanie Brichau (IRD-GET) and Stéphanie Duchêne (UT III-GET) in collaboration with Eduardo Campos (UCN), Marc Pujol (Geosciences Rennes). The jury was composed of

Mme Anne-Sylvie ANDRE-MAYERUniversité de Lorraine – Géoressources – ENSGReviewer
M. David A. SCHNEIDERDepartment of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of OttawaReviewer
Mme Stéphanie BRICHAUIRDPhD Director
Mme Stéphanie DUCHENEUniversité Paul Sabatier (U. Toulouse III)PhD Director
M. Olivier J. ROUXELIFREMERExaminer
M. Didier BEZIATUniversité Paul Sabatier (U. Toulouse III)Examiner
M. Cyril CHELLE-MICHOUETH ZürichExaminer
M. Thomas BISSIGBissig Geoscience ConsultingExaminer
M. Eduardo CAMPOSUniversidad Catolica del NorteInvited
M. Marc POUJOLUniversité Rennes 1Invited

Supergene copper mineralization (SCM) are nowadays the economic viability of many porphyry copper deposits worldwide. These mineralization are derived from supergene processes, defined as sulfide oxidation and leaching of ore deposits in the weathering environment, and any attendant secondary sulfide enrichment. For supergene copper mineralization to form, favorable tectonics, climate and geomorphologic conditions are required. Tectonics control the uplift needed to induce groundwater lowering and leaching of sulphides from a porphyry copper deposit. Climate controls copper leaching in the supergene environment and groundwater circulation towards the locus where supergene copper-bearing minerals precipitate. In Atacama Desert of northern Chile, SCM seem to take place during specific Tertiary climatic periods and relief formation. But many uncertainties remain regarding the genesis and the exact timing for SCM formation. We present mineralogical and chemical data on supergene copper-bearing minerals sampled from in situ and exotic SCM from two geologically and climatically distinct areas, namely the Atacama Desert of northern Chile and the Gaoua porphyry Cu-Au district in Burkina Faso. Although both areas have experienced different geological conditions, they both underwent similar geological and climatic controls to form and preserve SCM. Chrysocolla and pseudomalachite are the most common copper-bearing minerals found in SCM from the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. This led us to test the potential of both minerals as dating materials to place the SCM formation in a geochronological context. However, variation of U content from one mineral to another, common Pb contribution and the absence of matrix-matched-standard for both minerals made U-Pb LA-ICP-MS dating of chrysocolla and pseudomalachite challenging. A mixed approach combining texturally-controlled in situ LA-ICP-MS U-Pb dating and multi-elements mapping together with SIMS oxygen isotope analyses were applied to Mina Sur, Damiana and El Cobre exotic copper deposits and the in situ SCM of the Gaoua porphyry Cu-Au district. Regardless their location, the results demonstrate the important role played by the local geological parameters on the control of the U-Pb chronometer in supergene copper minerals. Initial high U content of the porphyry source can promote U-rich supergene copper minerals as it is the case at Mina Sur. Additionally, a long-term supergene alteration will favor long term water circulation in the depositional environment which can leached U from the porphyry source and allow the formation of U-low supergene copper minerals during recent times. The promising results obtained represent a new tool to understand the physico-chemical, climatic and geological conditions that prevailed during the formation of supergene copper deposits and a proxy for their prospection around the world.

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