US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Economic Geology, v. 117, no. 7, pp. 1543–1571.


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Fluid exsolution and melt evolution at the magmatic-hydrothermal transition are critical processes driving the metal enrichment of porphyry systems. Coeval fluid and melt inclusion assemblages in unidirectional solidification textures (USTs) at Saginaw Hill—a small, porphyry Cu system in southwestern Arizona—record a dynamic and repetitious process of fluid accumulation and release. The cores of quartz crystals throughout the UST bands host coeval silicate melt and brine inclusions but lack vapor-rich inclusions. This could indicate preferential expulsion of vapor and trapping of high-density brine during episodes of fracturing or the direct exsolution of single-phase high-salinity brine from the silicate melt. In contrast, the rims of UST quartz host abundant coeval brine and vapor inclusions, consistent with liquid-vapor immiscibility at lower pressures compared to the corresponding quartz cores. This transition from dominantly coeval silicate melt inclusions and brine in phenocryst cores to coeval brine and vapor in the rims suggests that the Saginaw Hill system underwent cyclic processes of fluid exsolution, accumulation, overpressure, and decompression at relatively stable temperatures (consistently ~650°C) during UST formation. Melt inclusion data indicate that the melt at this stage was highly fractionated and tended toward muscovite saturation. Metal concentrations in the brine were comparable to or higher than those in fluids reported in world-class porphyry Cu systems and were likely the result of both igneous fractionation and the high chloride content of the exsolved fluids. While limited in scale, Saginaw Hill provides evidence for processes that are predicted to occur at the magmatic-hydrothermal transition during the formation of large, well-mineralized porphyry systems.