Hidden intrusions and molybdenite mineralization beneath the Kucing Liar Skarn, Ertsberg-Grasberg Mining District, Papua, Indonesia



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The Ertsberg-Grasberg Mining District of Papua, Indonesia (Western New Guinea) hosts the Ertsberg Cu-Au Skarn, the giant Grasberg Porphyry Cu-Au deposit, and several other orebodies. Two 1700-meter-long cores beneath the Kucing Liar ore skarn (KL98-10-22) and the Grasberg Igneous Complex (KL98-10-21) contain high concentrations of vein and disseminated molybdenite. KL98-10-22, the focus of this study, intersects two previously unencountered intrusions, the “Tertiary intrusion Kucing Liar” (Tikl) and “Tertiary Pliocene intrusion” (Tpi). An intense dilatational quartz vein stockwork cuts Tikl and Ekmai Sandstone (Kkes) units, predating Tpi intrusion. Prior to these ultradeep cores, which extend almost 3 km below pre-mining surface, molybdenite was rarely observed in the district. Geochemistry and isotopic data indicate that Tikl and Tpi intrusions originated from the same large magmatic system that emplaced other ore-forming Ertsberg-Grasberg district intrusions. Magma in a lower crustal chamber was recharged at least twice, according to Sr-Nd data. Laser-ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry of magmatic zircons yields 238U-206Pb ages between 3.40 ± 0.12 Ma (Dalam Andesite) and 2.77 ± 0.15 Ma (Ertsberg intrusion), revealing a shorter period of igneous activity than previously measured by K-Ar and Ar-Ar dating. Analyses include composite ages of 3.28 ± 0.08 Ma for Tikl and 3.18 ± 0.11 Ma for Tpi. Inherited zircon cores indicate Precambrian (mostly Proterozoic) basement. Molybdenite veining beneath the Kucing Liar Skarn and Grasberg Igneous Complex postdates stockwork veining and occurred before the 2.99 ± 0.11 Ma Kali dikes. Only one molybdenite vein was observed cutting Tpi. Molybdenites yielded ~3 Ma Re-Os ages and anomalous >4 Ma and <0.5 Ma ages; anomalous ages were not reproducible in follow-up analyses (this study). Smearing deformation of molybdenite (through fault activity) causes crystal strain, likely leading to annealing recrystallization. Recrystallization possibly redistributes daughter-product Os, resulting in anomalous ages from annealed material. Fluids with high Mo/Cu ratios (which were likely supercritical) precipitated late-stage molybdenite deep in the system. These fluids developed through magma chamber crystallization, which concentrated molybdenum in the melt as an incompatible element, and stripping of Cu from the magma chamber during hydrothermal activity.