Formation of the giant Aynak copper deposit, Afghanistan: evidence from mineralogy, lithogeochemistry and sulphur isotopes

Hamidullah Waizy, N.R. Moles, Martin Smith, Adrian Boyce

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    Aynak is the largest known copper deposit in Afghanistan, with indicated resources of 240 Mt grading 2.3% Cu placing it in the ‘giant’ category. Host rocks are Neoproterozoic metasediments comprising dolomitic marble, carbonaceous quartz schist and quartz-biotite-dolomite schist containing garnet, scapolite and apatite. Chalcopyrite and bornite dominate the hypogene ore with lesser pyrite, pyrrhotite, cobaltite and chalcocite, and rare sphalerite, molybdenite, uraninite and barite. Sulphides occur as bedding-parallel laminae, disseminations, metamorphic segregations and crosscutting veins. Sulphide δ 34S ratios range –14.5 to +17.3‰ in bedded and disseminated sulphides (n = 34). This broad range favours biogenic reduction of seawater sulphate as a major source of sulphur, although thermochemical reduction processes are not precluded. The narrower δ 34S range of –6 to +12.2‰ in vein and segregation sulphides (n = 21) suggests localized redistribution and partial homogenization during metamorphism. Geochemical associations suggest that Al, P, Ca, Ti and Fe were primary sedimentary constituents whereas Cu, Mg, S, Se, As, Co and Bi were introduced subsequently. We infer that Aynak originated as a shale- and carbonate-hosted stratabound replacement deposit, resembling orebodies of the Central African Copperbelt, although underlying red-beds are absent at Aynak and mafic volcanics were the probable copper source. These giant deposits formed worldwide in the Cryogenian probably due to marine enrichment in copper, magnesium and sulphate coincident with profuse basaltic volcanism and ocean oxidation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages25
    JournalInternational Geology Review
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2020

    Bibliographical note

    © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
    This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built
    upon in any way.


    • Sediment-hosted copper sulfide deposit
    • Copperbelt
    • Neoproterozoic
    • chalcopyrite
    • bornite
    • cobaltite
    • biogenic sulfate reduction
    • thermochemical sulfate reduction
    • stratabound replacement


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