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Mitchell A.H.G.,IMHL | Myint W.,Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company Ltd | Lynn K.,Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company Ltd | Htay M.T.,Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company Ltd | And 2 more authors.
Resource Geology

The 50 km2 Monywa copper district lies near the Chindwin River within the northward continuation of the Sunda-Andaman magmatic arc through western Myanmar. There are four deposits; Sabetaung, Sabetaung South, Kyisintaung, and the much larger Letpadaung 7 km to the southeast. Following exploration drilling which began in 1959, production of copper concentrates from a small open pit started at Sabetaung in 1983. Since 1997, when resources totaled 7 million tonnes contained copper in 2 billion tonnes ore, a heap leach-electro-winning operation has produced over 400,000 t copper cathode from Sabetaung and Sabetaung South. Ore is hosted by mid-Miocene andesite or dacite porphyry intrusions, and by early mid-Miocene sandstone and overlying volcaniclastics including eruptive diatreme facies which the porphyries intrude. District-wide rhyolite dykes and domes with marginal breccias probably post-date andesite porphyries in the mine area and lack ore-grade copper. Host rocks to mineralization are altered to phyllic and advanced argillic hydrothermal assemblages within an outer chlorite zone; hypogene alunite is most abundant at Letpadaung and Kyisintaung. Most mineralization is structurally-controlled with digenite-chalcocite in breccia dykes, in steeply dipping NE-trending sheeted veins, and in stockwork and low-angle sulfide veins. A high-grade pipe at Sabetaung grades up to 30% Cu, and much of the ore at Sabetaung South is in a NE-trending zone of mega-breccia and stockworked sandstone. The hydrothermal alteration, together with replacement quartz, alunite and barite in breccia dykes and veins, the virtual absence of vein quartz, and the presence of chalcopyrite and bornite only as rare veins and as inclusions within the abundant pyrite, indicate that the deposits are high sulfidation. Regional uplift, resistance to erosion and leaching of the altered and mineralized rocks have resulted in porous limonite-stained leached caps over 200 m thick forming the Letpadaung and Kyisintaung hills. The barren caps pass abruptly downwards at the water table into the highest grade ore at the top of the supergene enrichment zone, within which copper grade, supergene kaolinite and cubic alunite decrease, and pyrite increases with depth; in contrast, marcasite is mostly shallow. Much of the copper to depths exceeding 200 m below the water table occurs as supergene digenite-chalcocite and minor covellite. Disseminated chalcocite is mostly near-surface and hence almost certainly supergene. We infer that during prolonged uplift at all four deposits, oxidation of residual pyrite at the water table generated enough acid to leach all the copper from earlier supergene-enriched ore; below the water table the resulting acid sulfate solutions partly replaced enargite, covellite, chalcopyrite, bornite and pyrite with supergene chalcocite. Undeformed upward-fining cross-bedded conglomerates and sands of the ancestral Chindwin River floodplain overlie the margins of the Sabetaung deposits, form a major aquifer up to 40 m thick, and are a potential host for exotic copper mineralization. A mid-Miocene pluton is inferred to underlie the Monywa deposits, but the possibility of porphyry-type mineralization within the district is at best highly speculative. © 2010 The Authors. Resource Geology © 2010 The Society of Resource Geology. Source

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