Trace metal distributions in sulfide scales of the seawater-dominated Reykjanes geothermal system: Constraints on sub-seafloor hydrothermal mineralizing processes and metal fluxes.

Grant, Hannah L. J., Hannington, Mark D., Hardardottir, Vigdís, Fuchs, Sebastian H. J. and Schumann, Dirk (2020) Trace metal distributions in sulfide scales of the seawater-dominated Reykjanes geothermal system: Constraints on sub-seafloor hydrothermal mineralizing processes and metal fluxes. Open Access Ore Geology Reviews, 116 (Article number 103145). DOI 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2019.103145.

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Abstract

Highlights

• Predictable trace element enrichments and depletions in the Reykjanes system.
• Boiling exerts a major influence on the enrichment of metals.
• High concentrations of Au and Ag and Pb indicate accumulation in reservoir fluids.
• Three quarters of the metal budget is deposited at depth or in the upflow zone.

Abstract

Mineral precipitation in the seawater-dominated Reykjanes geothermal system on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is caused by abrupt, artificially induced, pressure and temperature changes as deep high-temperature liquids are drawn from reservoir rocks up through the geothermal wells. Sulfide scales within these wells represent a complete profile of mineral precipitation through a seafloor hydrothermal system, from the deep reservoir to the low-temperature silica-rich surface discharge. Mineral scales have formed under a range of conditions from high pressures and temperatures at depth (>2 km) to boiling conditions in the upflow zone and at the surface. Consistent trace element enrichments, similar to those in black smoker chimneys, are documented: Cu, Zn, Cd, Co, Te, V, Ni, Mo, W, Sn, Fe and S are enriched at higher pressures and temperatures in the deepest scales, Zn and Cu, Bi, Pb, Ag, As, Sb, Ga, Hg, Tl, U, and Th are enriched at lower temperatures and pressures nearer to the surface. A number of elements (e.g., Co, Se, Cd, Zn, Cu, and Au) are deposited in both high- and low-pressure scales, but are hosted by distinctly different minerals. Other trace elements, such as Pb, Ag, and Ga, are strongly partitioned into low-temperature minerals, such as galena (Pb, Ag) and clays (Ga). Boiling and destabilization of metal-bearing aqueous complexes are the dominant control on the deposition of most metals (particularly Au). Other metals (e.g., Cu and Se) may also have been transported in the vapor phase. Very large enrichments of Au, Ag and Pb in the scales (e.g., 948 ppm Au, 23,200 ppm Ag, and 18.8 wt.% Pb) versus average concentrations in black smoker chimneys likely reflect that some elements are preferentially deposited in boiling systems. A mass accumulation of 5.7 t/yr of massive sulfide was calculated for one high-temperature production well, equating to metal fluxes of 1.7 t/yr Zn, 0.3 t/yr Cu, 23 kg/yr Pb, 4.1 kg/yr Ag, and 0.5 kg/yr Au. At least three quarters of the major and trace element load is precipitated within the well before reaching the surface. We suggest that a similar proportion of metals may be deposited below the seafloor in submarine hydrothermal systems where significant boiling has occurred. Mass accumulation estimations over the lifetime of the Reykjanes system may indicate significant enrichment of Zn, Pb, Au, and Ag relative to both modern and ancient mafic-dominated seafloor massive sulfide deposits, and highlights the potential for metal enrichment and accumulation in the deep parts of geothermal systems.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Trace metals, Seafloor massive sulfides, Reykjanes geothermal system, Hydrothermal fluid, Boiling
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-MUHS > Marine Mineralische Rohstoffe
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB4 Dynamics of the Ocean Floor > FB4-MUHS
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2019.103145
ISSN: 0169-1368
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2020 13:15
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2020 07:30
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/48608

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