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Magmatism is a critical component in sustaining hydrothermal convection and metal transport during the formation of volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposits. Previous studies of magmatic petrogenesis in VMS systems have demonstrated that ore-related volcanic rocks have distinct whole-rock geochemical and isotopic signatures (i.e., high HFSE, REE, Th, εHf-Nd, zircon saturation T) relative to barren volcanic rocks, which supports models of elevated crustal heat flow during periods of ore deposition; however, the petrologic characteristics and intrinsic parameters (e.g., T, fO2) related to these magmatic events in VMS districts remain poorly understood. Arc–back-arc assemblages from the mid-Paleozoic Yukon-Tanana terrane are well-characterized and include the Finlayson Lake VMS district, which is host to several felsic-hosted deposits (e.g., Kudz Ze Kayah, GP4F, Wolverine) that were generated in a peri-Laurentian continental back-arc tectonic setting. In this study, zircon from back-arc and coeval arc rocks in the Yukon-Tanana terrane was used as a proxy for primary magma formation conditions that generated VMS-proximal and VMS-distal stratigraphy. Our results indicate that zircon grains in VMS-proximal environments have unique textural, geochemical, and isotopic characteristics (e.g., low-aspect ratios, greater abundance of zircon-phosphate intergrowths, Th/U > 1, Zr/Hf > 80, Tzrc > 780 °C, εHfi > –7) that are clearly distinguished from zircon in VMS-distal rocks in both the back-arc and arc settings (Th/U < 1, Zr/Hf < 80, Tzrc < 780 °C, εHfi < –7). These signatures correlate to VMS-proximal magmas that were hotter, less fractionated, and contained greater juvenile melt contributions compared to VMS-distal magmas and reflect a series of high-flux magmatic events that directly correspond to the early tectonic development of Yukon-Tanana terrane. Moreover, this study underscores the importance of mineral-scale petrology, geochemistry, and geochronology in defining the primary magmatic conditions that generated VMS-related felsic rocks and highlights the utility of zircon as a prospectivity tool in both grassroots and brownfields VMS exploration.

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