Mineralization and Alteration of a Modern Seafloor Massive Sulfide Deposit Hosted in Mafic Volcaniclastic Rocks.

Anderson, Melissa O., Hannington, Mark D., McConachy, Timothy F., Jamieson, John W., Anders, Maria, Wienkenjohann, Henning, Strauss, Harald, Hansteen, Thor and Petersen, Sven (2019) Mineralization and Alteration of a Modern Seafloor Massive Sulfide Deposit Hosted in Mafic Volcaniclastic Rocks. Open Access Economic Geology, 114 (5). pp. 857-896. DOI 10.5382/econgeo.4666.

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Tinakula is the first seafloor massive sulfide deposit described in the Jean Charcot troughs and is the first such deposit described in the Solomon Islands—on land or the seabed. The deposit is hosted by mafic (basaltic-andesitic) volcaniclastic rocks within a series of cinder cones along a single eruptive fissure. Extensive mapping and sampling by remotely operated vehicle, together with shallow drilling, provide insights into deposit geology and especially hydrothermal processes operating in the shallow subsurface. On the seafloor, mostly inactive chimneys and mounds cover an area of ~77,000 m2 and are partially buried by volcaniclastic sand. Mineralization is characterized by abundant barite- and sulfide-rich chimneys that formed by low-temperature (<250°C) venting over ~5,600 years. Barite-rich samples have high SiO2, Pb, and Hg contents; the sulfide chimneys are dominated by low-Fe sphalerite and are high in Cd, Ge, Sb, and Ag. Few high-temperature chimneys, including zoned chalcopyrite-sphalerite samples and rare massive chalcopyrite, are rich in As, Mo, In, and Au (up to 9.26 ppm), locally as visible gold. Below the seafloor, the mineralization includes buried intervals of sulfide-rich talus with disseminated sulfides in volcaniclastic rocks consisting mainly of lapillistone with minor tuffaceous beds and autobreccias. The volcaniclastic rocks are intensely altered and variably cemented by anhydrite with crosscutting sulfate (± minor sulfide) veins. Fluid inclusions in anhydrite and sphalerite from the footwall (to 19.3 m below seafloor; m b.s.f.) have trapping temperatures of up to 298°C with salinities close to, but slightly higher than, that of seawater (2.8–4.5 wt % NaCl equiv). These temperatures are 10° to 20°C lower than the minimum temperature of boiling at this depth (1,070–1,204 m below sea level; m b.s.l.), suggesting that the highest-temperature fluids boiled below the seafloor. The alteration is distributed in broadly conformable zones, expressed in order of increasing depth and temperature as (1) montmorillonite/nontronite, (2) nontronite + corrensite, (3) illite/smectite + pyrite, (4) illite/smectite + chamosite, and (5) chamosite + corrensite. Zones of argillic alteration are distinguished from chloritic alteration by large positive mass changes in K2O (enriched in illite/smectite), MgO (enriched in chamosite and corrensite), and Fe2O3 (enriched in pyrite associated with illite/smectite alteration). The δ18O and δD values of clay minerals confirm increasing temperature with depth, from 124° to 256°C, and interaction with seawater-dominated hydrothermal fluids at high water/rock ratios. Leaching of the volcanic host rocks and thermochemical reduction of seawater sulfate are the primary sources of sulfur, with δ34S values of sulfides, from –0.8 to 3.4‰, and those of sulfate minerals close to seawater sulfate, from 19.3 to 22.5‰.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposit, volcaniclastic rocks, hydrothermal fluids, fluid inclusions
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-MUHS > Marine Mineralische Rohstoffe
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-MUHS
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.5382/econgeo.4666
ISSN: 0361-0128
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2019 09:22
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2020 09:16
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/47348

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