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Volume 27 Issue 3
Jun.  2016
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Yongfeng Zhu, Fang An, Wangyi Feng, Huichao Zhang. Geological evolution and huge ore-forming belts in the core part of the Central Asian metallogenic region. Journal of Earth Science, 2016, 27(3): 491-506. doi: 10.1007/s12583-016-0673-7
Citation: Yongfeng Zhu, Fang An, Wangyi Feng, Huichao Zhang. Geological evolution and huge ore-forming belts in the core part of the Central Asian metallogenic region. Journal of Earth Science, 2016, 27(3): 491-506. doi: 10.1007/s12583-016-0673-7

Geological evolution and huge ore-forming belts in the core part of the Central Asian metallogenic region

doi: 10.1007/s12583-016-0673-7
More Information
  • Corresponding author: Yongfeng Zhu, yfzhu@pku.edu.cn
  • Electronic Supplementary Material: Supplementary material (Table S1) is available in the online version of this article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12583-016-0673-7.
  • Received Date: 2015-07-15
  • Accepted Date: 2015-11-02
  • Publish Date: 2016-06-10
  • The multi-stage geological evolution and extensive continental deformations during the course of its history make the Central Asian metallogenic region (CAMR) a unique and complicated large-scale metal domain. New geological observations and precise age-data allow an improved reconstruction of the geological evolution of the CAMR. This paper summarizes the Paleozoic orogenic evolution and related ore formation in the core part of the CAMR based on the geological data published both during the Soviet period and the last decades. Four ore-formation provinces (Altay, Balkhash-Junggar, Chu-Yili-Tianshan, and Southwest Tianshan) could be classified. The Balkhash-Junggar and Chu-Yili-Tianshan provinces are the major topics of this paper. The Balkhash-Junggar province consists of 4 huge ore-forming belts (Zharma-Saur, Tarbahtay-Xiemistay, Aktogay-Baerluke, Balkhashwestern Junggar) with 11 large ore-college areas. The Chu-Yili-Tianshan province consists of 4 huge ore-forming belts (Alatau-Sairimu, Chu-Yili-Bolehuole, Issyk-Awulale, Kazharman-Nalaty) with 22 large ore-college areas. Formation of large ore-college area corresponds to a specific stage of continental crust growth. Comparison of geology and ore deposits in the CAMR provides rich information for future exploration and understanding of ore-forming processes. The Paleo-Junggar Ocean closed at Early Devonian in the Balkhash-western Junggar ore-forming belt. Afterwards, widespread volcanicsedimentary rocks formed at extensional stage due to delamination of the thick lower crust formed during previous accretionary processes. Felsic magma intrusion caused formation of porphyry Cu-Au deposit at ~310 Ma and related hydrothermal gold deposits about 10 Ma later. For example, in the Hatu-Baobei-Sartohay Au-Cr ore-college area in the Balkhash-western Junggar ore-forming belt, small granitic to diorite plutons and various dykes (312–277 Ma) and large granite bodies (~300 Ma) intruded into the Devonian to Early Carboniferous volcano-sedimentary basin. These magmatic activities and fault systems mainly controlled ore-forming processes.
  • Electronic Supplementary Material: Supplementary material (Table S1) is available in the online version of this article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12583-016-0673-7.
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Geological evolution and huge ore-forming belts in the core part of the Central Asian metallogenic region

doi: 10.1007/s12583-016-0673-7

Abstract: The multi-stage geological evolution and extensive continental deformations during the course of its history make the Central Asian metallogenic region (CAMR) a unique and complicated large-scale metal domain. New geological observations and precise age-data allow an improved reconstruction of the geological evolution of the CAMR. This paper summarizes the Paleozoic orogenic evolution and related ore formation in the core part of the CAMR based on the geological data published both during the Soviet period and the last decades. Four ore-formation provinces (Altay, Balkhash-Junggar, Chu-Yili-Tianshan, and Southwest Tianshan) could be classified. The Balkhash-Junggar and Chu-Yili-Tianshan provinces are the major topics of this paper. The Balkhash-Junggar province consists of 4 huge ore-forming belts (Zharma-Saur, Tarbahtay-Xiemistay, Aktogay-Baerluke, Balkhashwestern Junggar) with 11 large ore-college areas. The Chu-Yili-Tianshan province consists of 4 huge ore-forming belts (Alatau-Sairimu, Chu-Yili-Bolehuole, Issyk-Awulale, Kazharman-Nalaty) with 22 large ore-college areas. Formation of large ore-college area corresponds to a specific stage of continental crust growth. Comparison of geology and ore deposits in the CAMR provides rich information for future exploration and understanding of ore-forming processes. The Paleo-Junggar Ocean closed at Early Devonian in the Balkhash-western Junggar ore-forming belt. Afterwards, widespread volcanicsedimentary rocks formed at extensional stage due to delamination of the thick lower crust formed during previous accretionary processes. Felsic magma intrusion caused formation of porphyry Cu-Au deposit at ~310 Ma and related hydrothermal gold deposits about 10 Ma later. For example, in the Hatu-Baobei-Sartohay Au-Cr ore-college area in the Balkhash-western Junggar ore-forming belt, small granitic to diorite plutons and various dykes (312–277 Ma) and large granite bodies (~300 Ma) intruded into the Devonian to Early Carboniferous volcano-sedimentary basin. These magmatic activities and fault systems mainly controlled ore-forming processes.

Electronic Supplementary Material: Supplementary material (Table S1) is available in the online version of this article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12583-016-0673-7.
Yongfeng Zhu, Fang An, Wangyi Feng, Huichao Zhang. Geological evolution and huge ore-forming belts in the core part of the Central Asian metallogenic region. Journal of Earth Science, 2016, 27(3): 491-506. doi: 10.1007/s12583-016-0673-7
Citation: Yongfeng Zhu, Fang An, Wangyi Feng, Huichao Zhang. Geological evolution and huge ore-forming belts in the core part of the Central Asian metallogenic region. Journal of Earth Science, 2016, 27(3): 491-506. doi: 10.1007/s12583-016-0673-7
  • Numerous Pre-Cambrian fragments were disintegrated from the Gondwana, drifted across the Paleo-Asian Ocean, and finally docked to the eastern Europe and Siberia Plate to form the Central Asian orogenic belt (Dobretsov et al., 2005, 2003; Zonenshain et al., 1990). The Pre-Cambrian blocks in the Kokchetav-North Tianshan mainly consist of granitoid gneisses, some with Grenvillian ages and subordinate Paleo-Proterozoic and Archean rocks in southern Kazakhstan. Some researchers suggested that ophiolites of Kazakhstan represent the paleo- oceanic crust; whereas others believed that they record the presence of intra- and back-arc basins. Sengör and Natal'in (1996) suggested that the Pre-Cambrian crustal blocks and Early Paleozoic turbidity could constitute the basement and accretionary wedges of the Kipchak and Tuva-Mongol magmatic arcs, respectively. These Pre-Cambrian blocks were rifted off the eastern Europe-Siberia Plate to produce the Kipchak magmatic arc and Khanty-Mansi back-arc ocean in the beginning of Paleozoic time. These magmatic arcs and their accretionary wedges had undergone large-scale strike-slip movement and tectonic-magmatic superimposition during the Late Paleozoic period. However, Yakubchuk (2004) argued that the Paleo- Asian Ocean should be considered a branch of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean and the CAMR resulted from the subduction of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean. The orogenic belts consist of three magmatic arcs (Kipchak, Tuva-Mongol, and Mugodzhar-Rudny Altai), which were rifted off the eastern Europe-Siberia Plate and Laurentia (during Neo-Proterozoic) to form back-arc basins. In the Late Ordovician, the Siberian Plate began its clockwise rotation with respect to eastern Europe and this geological process continued through the Paleozoic until Early Permian producing multi-stage magmatic arcs (the Zharma-Saur- Valerianov-Beltau-Kurama, ZSVBK for short) that welded the Kipchak and Tuva-Mongol arcs. These tectonic units amalgamated and finally formed the CAMR. The Vendian to Early Paleozoic Baikonur-Karatau rift exists in the rear part of the Kipchak arc, while the ophiolites of the Kipchak arc in the northern Tianshan represent the Cambrian to Ordovician intra-arc basins. The southern Kazakhstan and the North Tianshan of Kyrgyzstan contain several high-pressure metamorphic assemblages that were dated at 480–490 Ma (Orozbaev et al., 2010; Tagiri et al., 2010; Togonbaeva et al., 2009). This suggests that high-grade metamorphic terranes that were previously regarded as parts of coherent Pre-Cambrian terranes may rather represent heterogeneous accretionary collages or collisional belts (Kröner et al., 2013).

    The more than 800 Ma-long history of the CAMR began in the Neo-Proterozoic by opening of the Paleo-Asian Ocean and was followed by multiple collisions between the Siberian, Kazakhstan, Tarim, and North China cratons from the Devonian to Permian periods (Fig. 1). As a major component of the CAMR, the Kokchetav-North Tianshan represents an amalgamation of Pre-Cambrian continental fragments, generally interpreted as microcontinents, Early Paleozoic ophiolite-decorated sutures, and high-grade metamorphic domains including high-pressure to ultrahigh-pressure eclogite-facies rocks, all welded together prior to Middle Ordovician (Alexeiev et al., 2011; Maksumova et al., 2001). The Kokchetav-North Tianshan was dominated by continental arc volcanism in Early to Middle Ordovician, followed by emplacement of granitoid batholiths in Late Ordovician and Early Silurian (Glorie et al., 2010; Konopelko et al., 2008; Sobolev et al., 2001).

    The Tianshan orogen extends across the territories of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and northwestern China. The western part of Tianshan is composed of three major structural units from north to south: Kyrgyz North Tianshan, Kyrgyz Middle Tianshan, and South Tianshan. In Chinese territory, Tianshan is traditionally subdivided into North, Yili- Central, and South Tianshan. The Chinese North Tianshan includes components in its northwestern part known as Aktau- Wenquan or Sairimu domain (Wang et al., 2012) which is not part of the Tianshan orogen but belongs to the Aktau-Junggar microcontinent that is separated from the North Tianshan by a major transcurrent fault.

    The Kyrgyz North Tianshan and its continuation into Kazakhstan is traditionally termed "Caledonian". It contains large volumes of Early Paleozoic granitoids and is generally characterized by a regional Pre-Devonian angular unconformity as shown in Fig. 1 (noting the shape of the Devonian arc and its boundary to the Pre-Devonian units). The Kyrgyz North Tianshan formed as a result of progressive subduction and subsequent closure of the Terskey Ocean in Late Ordovician (the Kyrgyz-Terskey belt in Fig. 1). Recently identified Early Paleozoic high-pressure eclogite facies metamorphic belts in the South Chu-Yili Mountains and in the Aktyuz terrane (Orozbaev et al., 2015; Kröner et al., 2012) suggested that Kyrgyz North Tianshan has been welded to Kazakhstan continent during Late Ordovician to Early Silurian (the Dzhalair-Naiman belt in Fig. 1). This Early Paleozoic belt bounded with the Chu-Yili- Aktyuz fault in south, marks the boundary of Kyrgyz North Tianshan and Kazakhstan continent.

    The Kyrgyz Middle Tianshan represents the southwestern part of the larger Ishim-Middle Tianshan microcontinent that extends from the Tianshan to the western part of northern Kazakhstan (De Grave et al., 2011; Avdeev and Kovalev, 1989). The Pre-Cambrian basement rocks are overlain unconformably by Vendian (Late Neo-Proterozoic) rift-related subalkaline basalts, diamictites and shales, which change upsection into Cambrian and Ordovician shales, cherts, carbonates and turbidites (Maksumova et al., 2001).

    The South Tianshan is a Late Paleozoic accretionary and collisional thrust-and-fold belt that formed during convergence of Kazakhstan continent with Karakum terrane and Tarim craton. It consists mainly of Middle to Late Paleozoic marine sedimentary rocks, subordinate ophiolites, and metamorphic rocks, that are imbricated and stacked together along major south-facing thrusts, thus suggesting N-directed subduction during the accretion-collision processes. The Atbashi-Kokshaal accretionary belt formed by the subduction of the South Tianshan Ocean beneath the active margin of the Kazakhstan continent. Resumed subduction was accompanied by the exhumation of ultrahigh-pressure eclogite-bearing rock assemblages at ca. 320 Ma (Rojas-Agramonte et al., 2013; Hegner et al., 2010; Lü et al., 2009; Zhang et al., 2007, 2002) and northward thrusting of tectonic sheets over the Kazakhstan active margin.

    The evolution of the Paleo-South Tianshan Ocean (one of the major constituents of the Paleo-Central Asian Ocean) has been hotly debated. The key issue is the closing time of this ocean and the nature of its related continental arcs. Occurrences of ophiolite, blueschist and eclogites were reported along the major fault of the southwestern Tianshan, and studies on these rocks provide rather controversial conclusions. In most cases, Late Paleozoic volcano-sedimentary strata cover Proterozoic to Silurian sedimentary-metamorphic rocks. These Late Paleozoic volcano-sedimentary rocks, widely exposed in the Southwest Tianshan, are composed of rhyolite, trachyte, trachy-andesite, basalt, and tuff with volcanic clastic sedimentary rocks, sandstone, and limestone. Early studies suggest that these volcanic rocks are related to rifting or to a large igneous province associated with a mantle plume. However, the mantle plume hypothesis could not be proven as these volcanic rocks in the Southwest Tianshan consist mainly of felsic volcanic rocks (> 70 vol.%, andesite, rhyolite, tuff and clastic sedimentary rocks). Zhu et al. (2009) presented the detailed data on petrology, element geochemistry, Sr-Nd-Hf isotopic geochemistry, and zircon SHRIMP chronology to constrain the genesis of the Late Paleozoic volcanic rocks in the Southwest Tianshan. These authors demonstrated that the Late Paleozoic volcanic rocks with geochemical characteristics of arc magma represent the continental arc formed during the subduction of the Paleo- South Tianshan Ocean northwards under the Yili terrane. The zircon U-Pb SHRIMP dating results demonstrate that this continental arc formed in Late Devonian (> 361 Ma, western part of the Southwest Tianshan) and Early Carboniferous (355–352 Ma, middle part of the Southwest Tianshan) and was active until Late Carboniferous in the eastern part of the Southwest Tianshan (~313 Ma). The Proterozoic to Early Paleozoic continental crust contributed to the Late Paleozoic magma evidenced by the old inherited zircons with negative εHf values as well as the negative εNd values for Late Devonian basaltic rocks.

    The westward motion of the Kazakhstan continent is recorded in the tectonic evolution of the Tarim-North China margin. The interactions between both continents likely started at Silurian, evolved during Devonian and ended by their final amalgamation at Late Carboniferous (Alexeiev et al., 2009). Wilhem et al. (2012) demonstrated that the Middle–Late Paleozoic motion and bending of the Kazakhstan continent is supported and refined by diachronous tectonic events identified along the margins of Tarim-North China-Siberian cratons. Early Silurian to Devonian arc assemblages was identified on its western and southwestern margins in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and northwestern China. The Ordovician to Devonian Zharma-Saur and Devonian to Carboniferous Junggar- Balkhash subduction-accretion zones most likely formed by the multiple accretion of terranes, but their nature and plate tectonic evolution still remain enigmatic (Wilhem et al., 2012; Windley et al., 2007). The southern branch of the Kazakhstan continent most likely extends into the Turpan-Bogda consisting of the Devonian to Carboniferous arc assemblages (Charvet et al., 2007). The Kazakhstan active margin (mainly East Aktau- Junggar, Chu-Yili, Kyrgyz Middle Tianshan) may have extended in the Chinese Harlik-Dananhu arc system.

    The complexity and specificity of its crustal growth make the CAMR a complicated geological framework and rich in different ore deposits (Wang and Zhu, 2015; Zhou T F et al., 2015; Zhou Q F et al., 2015; Chen et al., 2014, 2010; Shen et al., 2013; Pirajno et al., 2009; Mao et al., 2004; Heinhorst et al., 2000). For example, a great numbers of gold and other hydrothermal deposits formed during the strike-slip movements possibly related with granitic magma intrusion at Late Ordovician. The Silurian to Middle Devonian magmatic arcs, superimposed on the border of two magmatic arcs of Kipchak and Tuva- Mongol, extend from the Turpan Basin to Junggar-Balkhash Basin. The ZSVBK arc system hosted many Cu-rich skarn, porphyry, and epithermal deposits. Numerous Cu-Mo-Au porphyry, skarn, and epithermal gold deposits formed during the post-collisional stage with/or without intrusions of felsic magma.

  • The eastern Kazakhstan can be divided into three major geological units: (a) Caledonian belt, attached to northern Tianshan, formed a unified Kazakhstan-northern Tianshan terrane; (b) Junggar-Balkhash Hercynian belt, which overprinted the Caledonian belt; (c) the Devonian marginal igneous belt that distributed along the boundary between the Caledonian and Hercynian belts. The oldest geological units in the Caledonian belt are the Archean Ulongtau and Proterozoic Kokchetav massifs. The south of Ulongtau massif was overlapped by the Chusaleisu Basin, whereas the northern Ulongtau massif with the emergence of the Late Riphean basement was separated by Devonian to Carboniferous superimposed basins and grabens. The Paleo-Proterozoic quartzite, mica-chlorite-quartz schist, carbon-bearing schist, and diamond-bearing marble are exposed in the Kokchetav (Zhu and Ogasawara, 2002; Shatsky et al., 1999; Sobolev and Shatsky, 1990). The Caledonian layers, consisting mainly of the Vendian continental volcanoclastic and Cambrian to Early Ordovician volcanic-sedimentary rocks, cover the Archean to Middle Riphean layers unconformably.

    Several Pre-Cambrian blocks occurring among the Lower–Middle Cambrian volcanic-sedimentary strata in the Chingiz-Tarbahtay belt were covered by the Upper Cambrian carbonate-clastic strata unconformably. The lower part of the Lower–Middle Ordovician consists of chert and clastic rocks, whereas the Middle to Upper Ordovician sequences constitute terrestrial clastic rocks and overlying andesite and dacite. The Lower Devonian strata cover the Lower Silurian red-molasses overlying the Ordovician volcanic-sedimentary rocks. The Cambrian to Lower Ordovician sequences in the Balkhash- Junggar Hercynian belt are carbonate or clastic rocks with Ordovician mélanges locally. New oceanic crust developed locally in the Balkhash region at Early Ordovician. The Upper Ordovician terrestrial clastic rocks, volcanic rocks, and jasper covered on Middle Ordovician jasper-basalt in the Turcotourmas ophiolitic mélange. The Silurian chert-clastic rocks and the Early Devonian clastic rocks also covered on this mélange. Previous studies suggested that most ophiolitic mélanges in the Junggar and Carboniferous volcanic rocks with characteristics of island arc affinity are related to subduction. However, the increasing identification of the Early Paleozoic ophiolitic mélanges around Junggar (Zhu et al., 2015, 2013; Ren et al., 2014; Zhao and He, 2013) showed that these volcanic rocks are corresponding to rift zone or superimposed volcanic- sedimentary basin.

    The Devonian to Carboniferous strata were also preserved in some superimposed grabens. The Carboniferous–Permian sequence in the Tengzi and Zhezkazgan basins has been destroyed by fractures and formed a narrow graben system. The nearly NS direction folded structures of the Caledonian basement and the nearly EW direction fold-fault block structures of the overlying Devonian–Carboniferous complex constitute a picture of "flyover", which is an interactive mosaic of tectonic belts with different ages. Large-scale subsidence took place across the Sareisu-Tengzi zone during Devonian to Early Carboniferous, while uplift happened at Late Carboniferous. For example, the Karaganda graben and some other small basins were filled by a series of greenish-gray sandstones, which hosted large copper deposits. Granite intruded into the above-mentioned units at Carboniferous and formed a number of large-scale porphyry deposits.

    The Lower-Middle Devonian and the bottom of the Upper Devonian sequences constitute the Devonian marginal igneous belt showing a special shape like a hoof (U-shaped) opening toward the southeast (Fig. 1: noting the shape of the Devonian arc), which was called as horseshoe-shaped tectonic unit in Chinese literatures. Its outer zone (the so-called Devonian marginal igneous belt) overlies the Caledonian basement unconformably, whereas the inner zone (Carboniferous to Early Permian magmatic belt) distributes on the border of Caledonian and Hercynian tectonic belts. The outer zone, with the Lower Devonian terrestrial lava-pyroclastic rocks covering on the Lower Silurian strata, is strongly deformed. Zonenshain et al. (1990) suggested that this U-shaped structure resulted from a series NS-trending right-slip fault system (for example, Boshchekul- Chingiz fault, central Kazakhstan fault) from the end of Late Paleozoic to the beginning of Early Mesozoic period. If the rehabilitation is based on 200 km displacement for each strike-slip fault, the U-shaped structure will turn to be crescent.

    Six types metallogenic environment of large deposits in the CAMR have been classified (He and Zhu, 2006): (a) important primary uranium and rare earth deposits were hosted in Pre-Cambrian blocks surrounded by Phanerozoic orogenic belts; (b) the Au-Cu polymetallic ore deposits hosted in the Early Paleozoic accretionary zones were formed during Late Caledonian; (c) mineralization in the Devonian continental marginal igneous zone is characterized by multi-peak ore-forming processes; (d) the southwest Au-Cu-Mo-W ore-forming belt is related to a giant long-term active hydrothermal system; (e) the in-situ leachable uranium deposits in Meso-Cenozoic basins and the Late Paleozoic huge sandstone copper deposits formed in the post-collisional environment; (f) giant deposits usually located on the cross positions of the large transverse structures and ore-forming belts.

    The outer part of the U-shaped tectono-magmatic belt (Fig. 1) in the central Kazakhstan formed during Cambrian to Ordovician, whereas the inner part developed during Devonian to Carboniferous. The outer part hosted VMS and various Cu-Au deposits formed during Cambrian to Ordovician and Wu-Sn- Mo-Cu-Au deposits formed during Silurian to Devonian, whereas the inner part hosted large-scale porphyry Cu-Mo-Au, hydrothermal Wu-Au-Cu, and rare metal deposits formed during the Carboniferous to Permian (Heinhorst et al., 2000). From outer to inner (corresponding to Early and Late Paleozoic, respectively), the type of ore deposits changed from VMS to porphyry-skarn. The mineralization environments transformed from oceanic floor (outer part) to continental margin and finally to continental rift (inner part).

    The huge porphyry Cu-Au ore-forming system (e.g., Taldybulak-Karakol-Oktorkoy-Zharkulak porphyry Cu-Au ore-forming belt) was recognized in the Ordovician arc on the north edge of the Issyk terrane and the ore-forming age of the Taldybulak porphyry Cu-Au deposit was dated to be 464 Ma by Re-Os method (Yakubchuk et al., 2011). The Early Paleozoic orogenic belts in northern Xinjiang were often destroyed or re-worked strongly by Late Paleozoic magmatism. Nevertheless, Early Paleozoic subduction zones could be established in western Junggar (Zhu et al., 2015, 2013; Ren et al., 2014; Zhao and He, 2013; Buckman and Aitchison, 2001).

  • The mineralization of an ore-formation province generally developed a specific mineralization type during its geological evolution with several or one tectono-magmatic cycle. The enrichments of metallogenic elements probably are controlled by continental material heterogeneously, whereas the type of ore deposit is also controlled by regional geological structures. An ore-formation province is usually made up of several huge ore-forming belts, each huge ore-forming belt contains a number of large ore-college areas, and each large ore-college area contains one large or super-large ore deposit at least. A huge ore-forming belt can produce one or several unique ore-college areas at a certain crustal evolutional stage. The ore-forming processes are generally controlled by one tectono-magmatic zone, regional structure, or metamorphism. A large ore-college area refers to ore field distribution zones that are characterized by similar regional mineralization.

    Numerous terranes with different properties and evolutional histories in the CAMR have distinct metallogenic natures and host various types of ore deposits. The core part of the CAMR consists of four ore-formation provinces: Altay, Balkhash-Junggar, Chu-Yili-Tianshan, and Southwest Tianshan. Due to the independence of geological evolution of these ore-formation provinces, their evolution histories and mineralization-types are highly variable. This paper focuses on the Balkhash-Junggar and Chu-Yili-Tianshan ore-formation provinces. Each ore-formation province contains several huge ore-forming belts. The classification scheme is listed in Table 1 and shown in Fig. 2.

    Altay ore-formation province
    Ⅰ: Irtysh-Zaisan ore-forming belt
    Balkhash-Junggar ore-formation province
    Ⅱ: Zharma-Saur ore-forming belt (1) Saimusek Au-W-REE
    (2) Kensay Cu-Mo
    (3) Kuorzhenguora Au-Cu
    Ⅲ: Tarbahtay-Xiemistay ore-forming belt (4) Ayagus Cu-Pb-Zn
    (5) Baiyanghe-Xiemistay Cu-Au-Be- U
    Ⅳ: Aktogay-Baerluke ore-forming belt (6) Aktogay Cu-Mo-Au
    (7) Baerluke (Suyunhe) W-Sn-Mo- Cu-Fe-Au
    Ⅴ: Balkhash-western Junggar ore-forming belt (8) Kunrund Cu-Mo
    (9) Sayak Cu-Au-Mo
    (10) Hatu-Baobei-Sartohay Au-Cr
    (11) Baogutu Cu-Au
    Chu-Yili-Tianshan ore-formation province
    Ⅵ: Alatau-Sairimu ore-forming belt (12) Wurazar-Karagaire W-Mo-Pb-Zn
    (13) Burutashi-Kailongur Pb-Zn-W- Fe-Sn
    (14) Kekesay-Aerkeley Cu-Mo-Au
    (15) Jiekeli-Keguqin Pb-Zn-Cu
    (16) Alatau W-Sn
    Ⅶ: Chu-Yili-Bolehuole ore-forming belt (17) Akbakai Au
    (18) Boguty W
    (19) Dabate-Lailisigaoer Cu-Mo
    Ⅷ: Issyk-Awulale ore-forming belt (20) Axi-Yermande Au
    (21) Bala Chichkan-Jerooy Au-Cu
    (22) Akejuz Pb-REE-Cu-Mo-Fe
    (23) Taldybulak-Kensu-Oktorkoy Au- Cu belt
    (24) Awulale Cu-Ag-Fe-Pb
    (25) Katebasu Au
    (26) Changannuor-Shikebutai Fe-Cu
    (27) Tianger-Wangfeng Au belt
    (28) Motuosala Fe-Mn
    Ⅸ: Kazharman-Nalaty ore-forming belt (29) Kazharman Au-Cu-Fe-W-Sn
    (30) Jietmu Fe-W
    (31) Karaker Cu-Mo-Au
    (32) Kumtor Au
    (33) Sawayardun-Dashankou Au
    Southwest Tianshan ore-formation province
    X: Southwest Tianshan ore-forming belt (34) Sairajiaz Sn
    (35) Chanhansara Au-Sb-Hg

    Table 1.  Ore-formation province, huge metal-ore belt, and large ore-college area in the core part of Central Asian metallogenic region (CAMR)

    Figure 2.  Classification map showing the ore-formation provinces and huge ore-forming belts in the core part of the CAMR, number in circle indicates the large ore-college area.

  • The Balkhash-Junggar ore-formation province, consisting of 4 huge ore-forming belts (Zharma-Saur, Tarbahtay- Xiemistay, Aktogay-Baerluke, and Balkhash-western Junggar ore-forming belts, which were numbered with Ⅱ, Ⅲ, Ⅳ, and Ⅴ, respectively, in Fig. 2), is adjacent to the Altay province bounded with the Irtysh-Zaisan ore-forming belt in northeastern and the Alatau-Sairimu ore-forming belt in southwestern, which contacts with the Chu-Yili-Tianshan province. The Balkhash-Junggar province hosts numerous large metal deposits, including hydrothermal Au-Ag-Wu-Sn, skarn-porphyry, porphyry Cu-Mo-Au, and epithermal deposits of rare metals. All these porphyry deposits are controlled by Late Carboniferous intrusions and related hydrothermal systems.

    There is a good coupling between the evolution and mineralization in the Balkhash-Junggar ore-forming province. Although the proportion of the crust-mantle component varies greatly in a single magmatic system, most rocks have similar +εNd values. Positive εNd value of the Late Paleozoic magmatic rocks that spread widely is another important characteristic of the CAMR (Zhou T F et al., 2015, 2008; Yang et al., 2014; Zhu et al., 2009; Kovalenko et al., 2004; Han et al., 1997). The ore-forming ages of porphyry Cu-Au deposits in the Balkhash area vary from Ordovician to Permian, and mostly at Late Carboniferous (An et al., 2015; Chen X H et al., 2015; Chen Y F et al., 2013; Yang et al., 2012). The skarn Cu-Mo-Sn deposits, epithermal Au-Ag deposits, and porphyry Cu deposits, constitute a unique ore-forming system in the Balkhash-Junggar ore-formation province.

    For example, the Balkhash-western Junggar ore-forming belt (the belt V, see Fig. 2) contains at least 4 large ore-college areas: Kunrund Cu-Mo, Sayak Cu-Au-Mo, Hatu-Baobei- Sartohay Au-Cr, and Baogutu Cu-Au. The Hatu-Baobei- Sartohay Au-Cr and the Baogutu Cu-Au ore-college areas are the most important regions for Au-Cu-Cr mining activities in northwestern China due to recent progresses in mineral exploration. Locating on the central part of the CAMR, the western Junggar is characterized by distributions of Early Paleozoic ophiolites, Late Paleozoic volcano-sedimentary rocks and intermediate to granitic intrusions (see Fig. 3). The Tangbale, Baijiantan-Baikouquan, Darbut-Sartohay, Kujibai-Honguleleng ophiolite belts have been studied for interpreting the Paleozoic subduction-accretion processes. The Tangbale ophiolite mélange consists of radiolarian chert, pillow lava, metagabbro, serpentinite, harzburgite and lherzolite. Consistent with stratigraphical records, radiometric dating suggested that the Tangbale ophiolite mélange was formed at Cambrian (Ren et al., 2014). The Baijiantan-Baikouquan ophiolitic mélanges are mainly composed of serpentinite with lherzolite lenses, blocks of metagabbro and amphibolite. Consisting with recently reported isotopic age data (Zhu et al., 2015), Middle Ordovician radiolarians (He et al., 2007; Buckman and Aitchison, 2001) found in West Junggar suggested that the evolution of the paleo-ocean lasted until Late Ordovician.

    Figure 3.  Geology map of the western Junggar in the core part of the CAMR (modified from Zhu et al., 2013) labeled with ore deposits including gold, copper and chromitite.

    The low-grade metamorphic gabbro samples in the Darbut- Sartohay region were dated to be 426.0±5.8 Ma, implying that the paleo-ocean floor spreading happened until Middle Silurian (Zhu et al., 2013). Serpentinite with chromitite lenses occasionally occurs at the stratigraphic bottom of the Sartohay ophiolitic mélange (Zhu et al., 2016). The Devonian sandstone, containing plant fossils (Ma et al., 2015, 2011; Zong et al., 2015), and Devonian to Early Carboniferous volcanoclastics cover ophiolitic mélange and flysch. These newly uncovered geological data are conflicting with the previously proposed tectonic models. For example, the widespread Early Carboniferous volcano- sedimentary rocks in western Junggar, filling in the post-orogenic basin and occurring as molasses in most cases, were misunderstood as island arcs in geological literatures. Increase of geological data could illustrate a completely new version for geology evolution in the western Junggar.

    For the Hatu-Baobei-Sartohay Au-Cr large ore-college area, zircons separated from andesite in the Hatu region give an average age of 335.2±2.9 Ma, and zircons separated from tuff in the Baobei region give an average age of 328.1±1.8 Ma (Zhu et al., 2013). Large granite bodies in West Junggar were dated to be ~300 Ma (Han et al., 2006), while small granitic to diorite plutons and various dykes intruded into the Devonian to Early Carboniferous volcano-sedimentary units were dated to be 312–277 Ma. For example, two small intrusive bodies intruded into the Baikouquan ophiolitic mélange were dated to be 310.7±3.7 and 312±3 Ma (Zhu et al., 2013).

    For the Baogutu Cu-Au large ore-college area (Fig. 4), the widespread Early Carboniferous volcano-sedimentary rocks were dated to be 310–316 Ma (Wei et al., 2011; Liu et al., 2009), small intrusive bodies consisting of granodiorite, quartz diorite, and diorite were dated to be 310–325 Ma, felsic dykes were dated to be 280–310 Ma, and diorite dykes were dated to be ~280 Ma (Zhu et al., 2014). The Baogutu porphyry Cu-Au deposit was formed at ~310 Ma, while gold deposits formed probably 10 Ma later (at ~300 Ma). Studies show that felsic magma intruded volcanic-sedimentary sequence was rich in water and Cu-Au with high oxygen fugacity, which finally formed porphyry Cu-Au and hydrothermal gold deposits.

    Figure 4.  Genetic model showing gold and copper mineralization in the Baogutu region of the western Junggar. There are three stages of magmatic intrusions: granite-diorite pluton and granitic porphyry hosting porphyry Cu-Au deposit formed during 310–316 Ma, felsic dykes formed at 280–310 Ma, which was followed by diorite/gabbro dykes intruded at ~280 Ma. The Au-As-Sb-Bi mineralization occurred after the intrusion of granitic magma but before mafic dykes.

    In general, tectonic evolution and ore-formation in the Balkhash-western Junggar ore-forming belt could be illustrated in a model as shown in Fig. 5. The subduction of oceanic crust continued until the end of Silurian, and the Paleo-Junggar Ocean closed at Early Devonian. Afterwards, volcano eruption formed widespread volcanic-sedimentary rocks during extensional stage at Early Carboniferous period, which was probably caused by delamination of the thick lower crust formed during previous accretionary processes. Felsic magma intrusion caused formation of porphyry Cu-Au deposit at ~310 Ma and related hydrothermal gold deposits at ~300 Ma.

    Figure 5.  Tectonic model showing the evolution of western Junggar and related ore-formation. The subduction process continued until the end of Silurian (a, b). The Paleo-Junggar Ocean closed probably at Early Devonian (c). The following extensional stage formed volcanic-sedimentary basin at Early Carboniferous. Felsic magma intrusion caused formation of porphyry Cu-Au deposit at ~310 Ma (d) and related hydrothermal gold deposits 10 Ma later (e).

  • The Chu-Yili-Tianshan ore-formation province consists of four huge ore-forming belts: Alatau-Sairimu (the Ⅵ belt in Fig. 2), Chu-Yili-Bolehuole (the Ⅶ belt in Fig. 2), Issyk-Awulale (the Ⅷ belt in Fig. 2), and Kazharman-Nalaty (the Ⅸ belt in Fig. 2). The Chu-Yili-Tianshan magmatic zone formed within three stages: (a) with the subduction of the oceanic crust, andesite-rhyolite and diorite-granite assemblages formed during the Silurian to Carboniferous periods; (b) large-scale felsic magma eruption and following gabbro-granite intrusions at Late Carboniferous; (c) bimodal volcanic rocks and diorite- syenite-alkaline assemblages developed in post-collisional setting at Early Permian (Gou et al., 2012; Seltmann et al., 2011; Konopelko et al., 2008).

    The Northwest Tianshan in Xinjiang, belonging to the eastward extension part of the Chu-Yili-Tianshan ore-formation province, developed the Late Paleozoic Alatau-Tulasu-Keguqin volcanic arc, accompanied with intensive volcanic activities during Devonian to Carboniferous. Zircons separated from the andesite collected from the Axi and Jingxi-Yelmand gold mines were dated to be > 360 Ma (An et al., 2013; An and Zhu, 2008). In addition to volcanism-related gold deposits, some large gold deposits in Chu-Yili-Tianshan were mainly controlled by shear zone. For example, the Bingdaban-Tianger shear zone, located along the northern margin of central Tianshan, controls the Wangfeng, Tianger, and Saridala gold deposits. Studies on these gold deposits showed that the ductile shear zone activity lasted over 50 Ma, and the final shear deformation at Triassic period controlled gold deposition (Zhu, 2011).

    The Alatau-Sairimu ore-forming belt is characterized by the formation of Pb-Zn deposits in Early Paleozoic and porphyry, hydrothermal Au, and Wo-Mo deposits in Late Paleozoic. Five large ore-college areas could be identified: Wurazar- Karagaire W-Mo-Pb-Zn, Burutashi-Kailonger Pb-Zn-W-Fe-Sn, Kekesay-Aerkeley Cu-Mo-Au, Jiekeli-Keguqin Pb-Zn-Cu, and Alatau W-Sn ore-college areas. Generally, the Jiekeli-type deposit is pyritic polymetallic deposit hosted in carbonate-clastic rocks. Their ore-bodies are distributed along a narrow band of the Lower to Middle Ordovician carbonate-clastic rocks that underwent metamorphism. The outline of the ore-body is coordinated with fractures. The host country rocks are composed of lensoid mudstone-marlstone-limestone-dolomite and pyrite- bearing siliceous layers, which underwent metamorphism at greenschist facies. Two ore-forming stages have been identified: (a) the SEDEX with ore beds alternated with layers of chert-mudstone-calcareous rocks at Caledonian extensional stage; (b) metamorphic hydrothermal fluids, migrating along fault system, extracted ore-forming elements from country rocks including the pre-existing pyrite-sphalerite ore-bodies, and finally formed echelon ore-bodies at the Hercynian orogenic stage. The Jiekeli large ore-college area extends eastward into Junggar-Alatau in Xinjiang. The Sairimu Cu-Pb-Zn large ore-college district may be the eastward extension part of the Jiekeli-Keguqin ore-forming belt. The Proterozoic Kusongmuqieke Group, consisting mainly of neritic carbonate with clastic rocks and distributing along the margin of the Sairimu terrane, was covered by the Middle Devonian conglomerate-sandstone intercalated with bioclastic limestone.

    The Chu-Yili-Bolehuole ore-forming belt corresponds to the Early Paleozoic Bolehuole orogenic belt. Several porphyry Cu-Au polymetallic and hydrothermal vein-type Au-Cu deposits, including the Lamasu Cu-Zn deposit, Lailisigaoer Cu-Mo deposit, Dabate Cu deposit, Kekesay Cu deposit were found during the last decade. The first two deposits are related to the Late Carboniferous to Early Permian felsic intrusions, and the latter two deposits are related to Early Carboniferous granite.

    In the Issyk-Awulale ore-forming belt, Neo-Proterozoic to Early Cambrian andesite-rhyolite overlies the Early to Middle Proterozoic amphibolite-gneiss. The Early Caledonian structural layer is composed of Late Cambrian sandstone and Early Ordovician altered basalt-diabase, while the Late Caledonian layer consists of Ordovician and Devonian sequences. The Devonian terrestrial volcanic-sedimentary rocks cover on the Ordovician flysch and molasses. The Issyk-Awulale ore-forming belt is characterized by multi-stage with multiphase superposition of various types of mineralization. The epithermal, exhalative sedimentary Pb-Zn, and VMS Fe-Mn deposits were formed in the Naman-Jialayier suture zone. The porphyry copper deposits are related to the Ordovician diorite- granodiorite (Jenchuraeva, 1997). For example, the Taldybulak porphyry copper deposit was hosted in the quartz diorite porphyry with explosive breccias. The alterations outward from the intrusive center are potassic alteration and argillzation, along with the prophylitic alteration in wall rocks. This huge porphyry Cu-Au ore-forming system (for example, the Taldybulak-Karakol-Oktorkoy-Zharkulak porphyry Cu-Au ore-forming belt) was recognized in the Ordovician arc on the northern edge of the Issyk terrane and the ore-forming age of the Taldybulak porphyry Cu-Au deposit was dated to be 464 Ma by Re-Os method (Yakubchuk et al., 2011). The Andash porphyry copper deposit formed in two explosive breccia pipes of the Ordovician dioritic-granodioritic intrusions. Potassic alteration and silicification developed in the breccia-pipes, while argillic-propylitic alteration mainly developed along margins. The discovery and exploration of the Ordovician Kendeketas-Talas porphyry copper ore belt provide new ideas for searching porphyry deposits in Xinjiang. The Carboniferous granite in this ore-forming belt is also an important exploration target. Significant breakthroughs have been achieved recently in the eastern part of this belt. Dozens of large ore deposits, including the Dunde Fe-Au-Zn and Cartebasu Au deposits were found. For example, the Cartebasu gold deposit hosted in granite-diorite intruded into Early Carboniferous volcanic- sedimentary rocks, and this pluton is very likely to host a large porphyry Cu-Au deposit in the deep.

    The Kazharman-Nalaty ore-forming belt is separated from the Southwest Tianshan ore-formation province by the Nikulaev Line-Nalaty fault system. The Early Paleozoic Caledonian structural layers, overlain by the Devonian volcanic- sedimentary basin, principally consist of the Early–Middle Devonain volcanic and volcanic-sedimentary rocks in the lower part, the Late Devonian to Early Carboniferous carbonate rocks-littoral facies and red continental clastic deposit in the middle part, the Late Carboniferous to Permian sandstone- mudstone and felsic volcanic rocks in the upper part. Barite-Pb-, polymetallic vein-, pyrite- and skarn-typed deposits formed during the Early Caledonain period, while the rare metal- bearing greisen-quartz vein-, skarn-carbonate-greisen-, and granite intrusion-related W-Mo-Sn-typed mineralization formed at late stage of Caledonian period. In most cases, gold deposits were hosted in carbonaceous shale (the so called black-shale) controlled by shear zones.

    Substantial gold endowment of Permian age (Yakubchuk et al., 2005; Mao et al., 2004; Cole et al., 2000) occurs in a number of giant deposits. For example, the Proterozoic to Early Paleozoic marine clasics, mafic volcanic rocks, carbonaceous shale, and dolomite are exposed in the Muruntau area in the form of structural window frequently. Two important shear zones formed at Early Permian period, which finally produced the Muruntau gold deposit. The direct Re-Os estimate for arsenopyrite from the Muruntau deposit of 287±1.7 Ma (Morelli et al., 2007). Bierlein and Wilde (2010) provided new constraints on the polychronous and possibly polygenetic nature of the Muruntau District. In addition to the prominent gold deposits, a large group of mercury and mercury-antimony deposits is known in the Alay segment. Further east, coeval, relatively small gold deposits occur in the eastern part of the South Tianshan. Several stages of mineralization within individual deposits between 290 and 220 Ma could be identified, which are probably in association with tectono-thermal fluid pulses (Mao J W et al., 2014; De Jong et al., 2009).

  • Ore-formation in Southwest Tianshan is characterized by porphyry Cu-Au and related hydrothermal Au-Ag-Sb-Hg. The geological structures are complicated and shear zones that control the large gold deposits are well developed. Only small portion of this ore-formation province has been shown in Fig. 2 and the main part exists in the west outside of this map. The key scientific issues of Southwest Tianshan ore-formation province include: (a) the constraint of fluid-magma process for the ore-forming processes during the subduction of the south Tianshan oceanic crust; (b) the ore-forming mechanism of epithermal Au-Ag-Sb-Te-Hg deposits in volcanic rocks distributed along the Nikulaev-Nalaty fault system; (c) the environment for the formation of huge porphyry Cu-Au belt and the reconstruction of the Late Paleozoic geotectonic framework; (d) the characteristics of the Central-South Tianshan ductile shear zone, and its significance for gold mineralization. The Caledonian and Hercynian magmatism developed in the Southwest Tianshan along with two oceanic crust subdution-arc systems, respectively. For example, the Ordovician strata in the central- western Tajikistan is overlain by the Silurian to Devonian thick carbonate rocks and thin terrestrial clastic rocks. The granitic magma intruded into these carbonate rocks resulting in skarn and related mineralization. The mineralization is closely linked with the granodioritic intrusions. Intensely folded and the northward thrust napped structures were developed during Hercynian period. The granodiorite, granite, and tonalite intruded the Silurian to Devonian terrestrial carbonate-clastic rocks, the magmatic fluid finally produced the Jilau W-Au deposit. Nearly vertical quartz veins and lensoids of ore shoots exist in strongly altered granodiorite. The native gold, associated with arsenopyrite, scheelite, and bismuth minerals precipitated through the second boiling of H2O-CO2-CH4-N2 fluids with low salinity. The gold grade is in response to the high CH4 concentration in fluid. This suggests that a portion of mineralization fluids derived from the reducing carbonaceous strata interacted with skarn tungsten ore-bodies and formed the Au-W-rich ore-forming fluids (Cole et al., 2000). The formation of many hydrothermal gold deposits is closely associated with CH4-rich fluids and the ophiolites in the Central Asian are rich in this kind of fluids. These facts and a good correlation between giant deposits in Southwest Tianshan and the deep structures indicate that the long-term activities and effective accumulation in specific locations of deep ore-forming fluids are necessary for the formation of huge deposits.

  • The CAMR represents a complex amalgamation of Paleozoic island arcs, accretionary complexes and Pre-Cambrian terranes. These units were welded together during the Early Paleozoic. These regions were covered mainly by Neo-Proterozoic to Middle Ordovician carbonate, fine-grained marine sedimentary rocks continuously. Cambrian to Early Ordovician ophiolites and associated sedimentary and volcanic rocks either form well-delineated belts or occur as chains of dismembered fragments between the northern Kazakhstan and Tianshan. Recent studies in the CAMR have demonstrated that many medium- to high-grade metamorphic assemblages that were previously considered to be Archean or Paleo-Proterozoic in age are, in fact, much younger and document high-grade events associated with terrane accretion and subduction during the Paleozoic. These and other new data (Liu et al., 2016; Zhu et al., 2016; Qiu and Zhu, 2015; Simonov et al., 2015; Xiao et al., 2015; Yang et al., 2015) change our understanding of regional tectonic settings, geometry of individual terranes, sutures, and structural boundaries and have important implications for the overall structure and evolution of the CAMR.

    With the accumulation of new geological and precise isotopic age data, our understanding of the CAMR will be improved. The achievements of geology-geochemistry and explorations for mineral resources during last decades suggested that the complexity and specificity of its crustal growth make the CAMR a complicated geological framework, which is rich in various ore deposits. Such a wealth of geological phenomena and mineral resources are inevitably accompanied by multi- stage scientific explorations and diverse understandings.

    Obviously, it is extremely challenging to summarize the geological and mineral data for this region. For example, the Tarbahtay-Xiemistay and Aktogay-Baerluke ore-forming belts in the Balkhash-Junggar ore-formation province were identified recently. These two huge ore-forming belts become clear via comparison with their western extending parts in the Kazakhstan based on the identification of key geologic bodies such as the Early Paleozoic ophiolitic mélanges and other related geological records (Xue et al., 2015; Zhu et al., 2015; Ren et al., 2014; Zhao and He, 2013). Although large ore-college areas in these two ore-forming belts are relatively rare at present, they have greatest prospecting potential in the Balkhash-Junggar ore-formation province. The ore-forming potential of above-mentioned huge ore-forming belts will be realized with more geological explorations in future. The classification of ore-formation provinces and huge ore-forming belts classified in this paper are still preliminary. The extended features, formation and evolution of each huge ore-forming belt need to be improved by new geological and geochemical data in future explorations.

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