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The Keweenaw Peninsula native copper district of Michigan, USA is the largest concentration of native copper in the world. The copper isotopic composition of native copper was measured from stratabound and vein deposits, hosted by multiple rift-filling basalt-dominated stratigraphic horizons over 110 km of strike length. The δ65Cu of the native copper has an overall mean of +0.28‰ and a range of −0.32‰ to +0.80‰ (excluding one anomalous value). The data appear to be normally distributed and unimodal with no substantial differences between the native copper isotopic composition from the wide spread of deposits studied here. This suggests a common regional and relatively uniform process of derivation and precipitation of the copper in these deposits. Several published studies indicate that the ore-forming hydrothermal fluids carried copper as Cu1+, which is reduced to Cu0 during the precipitation of native copper. The δ65Cu of copper in the ore-forming fluids is thereby constrained to +0.80‰ or higher in order to yield the measured native copper values by reductive precipitation. The currently accepted hypothesis for the genesis of native copper relies on the leaching of copper from the rift-filling basalt-dominated stratigraphic section at a depth below the deposits during burial metamorphism. Oxidative dissolution of copper from magmatic source rocks with magmatic δ65Cu of 0‰ ± 0.3‰ is needed to obtain the copper isotopic composition of the metamorphogenic ore-forming hydrothermal fluids. In order to accommodate oxidative dissolution of copper from the rift-filling basalt source rocks, the copper needs to have been sited in native copper. Magmatic native copper in basalt is likely stable when the magma is low in sulfur. Low sulfur is predicted by the lack of sulfide minerals in the ore deposits and in the rift-filling basalt-dominated section, which are source rocks, the same rocks through which the ore fluids moved upwards, and the host rocks for the native copper ores. When combined with geologic evidence and inferences, the copper isotopic composition of native copper helps to further constrain the genetic model for this unique mining district.

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This article belongs to the Special Issue Geochemistry and Mineralogy of Hydrothermal Metallic Mineral Deposits

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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