The submarine tectono-magmatic framework of Cu-Au endowment in the Tabar-to-Feni island chain, PNG

Brandl, Philipp A., Hannington, Mark D., Geersen, Jacob, Petersen, Sven and Gennerich, Hans-Hermann (2020) The submarine tectono-magmatic framework of Cu-Au endowment in the Tabar-to-Feni island chain, PNG Ore Geology Reviews, 121 (Article number 103491). DOI 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2020.103491.

1-s2.0-S0169136819306067-main.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0.

Download (37Mb) | Preview
1-s2.0-S0169136819306067-mmc1.pdf - Supplemental Material
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0.

Download (1260Kb) | Preview

Supplementary data:



• Review of the critical processes controlling ore formation in the New Ireland Basin.
• Combining geological knowledge of the on- and offshore areas.
• New constraints on the origin, timing, and location of pathways for metal-rich melts and fluids.
• Significance of microplate tectonics for gold endowment.


The Southwest Pacific region, and Papua New Guinea in particular, is spectacularly endowed with mineral resources, including some of the youngest and richest porphyry Cu-Mo-Au deposits in the world. Among them is the giant porphyry-epithermal Ladolam Au deposit on Lihir Island in the Tabar-Lihir-Tanga-Feni (TLTF) island chain, northeast of New Ireland. Its setting within a former forearc basin is very different from most Southwest Pacific porphyry and epithermal deposits. Our synthesis of published and previously unreleased data from ship-based multibeam and seismic studies, satellite gravimetry, geochemistry and geochronology reveals a far more complex crustal structure and composition than is presently understood from the geology of the islands alone. We show that the unique regional Au endowment results from the alignment of various preconditions that are prolific to ore formation: i) hydrous and metal-rich metasomatic veins in the mantle source, ii) second-stage, low volume partial melting due to incipient rifting, iii) high volatile contents and oxygen fugacities of the melts due to preferential melting of hydrous phases in the metasomatic veins, and iv) in the specific case of Lihir, unroofing of the volcanic edifice that led to boiling and rapid metal deposition. This study shows that the location of the Ladolam deposit on Lihir is controlled by large-scale structures that can be traced offshore and are the site of continuing submarine volcanism and epithermal-style Au mineralization. The observed structural framework is dominated by the emergence of trans-lithospheric faults that provided pathways for the melts to the seafloor, near-surface structural focusing of the ascending melts and fluids, and a regional tectonic stress regime that stabilized the conditions over a significant period of time and/or repeatedly. Marine seismic data confirms the complex structure of the TLTF island chain. Each island group sits on tilted blocks that form horst structures separated by half grabens developed due to regional NW-SE-directed extension. Regional compression perpendicular to the extension continues as a result of the transition from subduction to collision at the leading edge of the Ontong Java Plateau. The protracted, transtensional motion between distinct crustal blocks controls the location and timing of magmatism and mineralization. A kinematic link between volcanism at the location of Lihir and the splitting of New Ireland by NE-directed propagation of seafloor spreading in the Manus Basin is suspected. By combining onshore and offshore geology, we propose a new model of the evolution of the New Ireland Basin, magmatism along the TLTF island chain and ultimately ore deposit formation. This study demonstrates the importance of integrating offshore geology and geophysics into models that aim to explain the structural, magmatic, and sedimentary evolution of marginal basins that are host to economic mineral deposits.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Metallogeny, Geodynamics, Papua New Guinea, Lihir, Gold
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-MUHS > Marine Mineralische Rohstoffe
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-GDY Marine Geodynamics
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-MUHS
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2020.103491
ISSN: 0169-1368
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2020 13:26
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2020 08:14

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

More statistics for this item...