Volcaniclastic sediments deposited in the moat of the collapsed McDermitt caldera complex have been altered chiefly to zeolites and potassium feldspar. The original rhyolitic and peralkaline ash-flow tuffs are included in conglomerates at the caldera rims and grade into a lacustrine series near the center of the collapse. The tuffs show a lateral zeolitic alteration from almost fresh glass to clinoptilolite, clinoptilolite-mordenite, and erionite; to analcime-potassium feldspar; and finally to potassium feldspar. Vertical zonation is in approximately the same order. Clay minerals in associated mudstones, on the other hand, show little lateral variation but a distinct vertical zonation, having a basal dioctahedral smectite, a medial trioctahedral smectite, and an upper dioctahedral smectite. The medial trioctahedral smectite is enriched in lithium (as much as 6,800 ppm Li). Hydrothermal alteration of the volcaniclastic sediments, forming both mercury and uranium deposits, caused a distinct zeolite and clay-mineral zonation within the general lateral zonation. The center of alteration is generally potassium feldspar, commonly associated with alunite. Potassium feldspar grades laterally and vertically to either clinoptilolite or clinoptilolite-mordenite, generally associated with gypsum. This zone then grades vertically and laterally into fresh glass. The clay minerals are a dioctahedral smectite, a mixed-layer clay mineral, and a 7-A clay mineral. The mixed-layer and 7-A clay minerals are associated with the potassium feldspar-alunite zone of alteration, and the dioctahedral smectite is associated with clinoptilolite. This mineralogical zonation may be an exploration guide for mercury and uranium mineralization in the caldera complex environment.
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Zeolite-clay mineral zonation of volcaniclastic sediments within the McDermitt caldera complex of Nevada and Oregon