Ammonium bound to silicate and sulfate minerals has recently been located at several major hydrothermal systems in the western U.S. utilizing newly-discovered near-infrared spectral properties. Knowledge of the origin and mineralogic relations of ammonium minerals at known hydrothermal systems is critical for the proper interpretation of remote sensing data and for testing of possible links to mineralization. Submicroscopic analysis of ammonium minerals from two mercury- and gold-bearing hot-springs deposits at Ivanhoe, Nevada and McLaughlin, California shows that the ammonium feldspar, buddingtonite, occurs as fine-grained euhedral crystals coating larger sulfide and quartz crystals. Ammonium feldspar seems to precipitate relatively late in the crystallization sequence and shows evidence for replacement of NH4+ by K+ or other monovalent cations. Some buddingtonite is observed in close association with mercury, but not with gold. Ammonioalunite is found in a variety of isolated crystal forms at both deposits. Nitrogen isotopic values for ammonium-bearing minerals show a 14??? range in composition, precluding assignment of a specific provenance to the nitrogen. The correlations of nitrogen isotopic values with depth and ammonium content suggest some loss of nitrogen in the oxidizing supergene environment, possibly as a metastable mineral. The high ammonium content in these hydrothermal systems, the close association to mercury, and the small crystal size of the ammonium-bearing minerals all suggest that ammonium may be transported in a late-stage vapor phase or as an organic volatile. Such a process could lead to the formation of a non-carbonaceous organic aureole above a buried geothermal source. The discovery of a 10-km outcrop of ammonium minerals confirms that significant substitution of ammonium in minerals is possible over an extensive area and that remote sensing is a feasible means to detect such aureoles. ?? 1993.
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Relations of ammonium minerals at several hydrothermal systems in the western U.S.