Sulphide mineralization and wall-rock alteration in ophiolites and modern oceanic spreading centres

Journal of Geochemical Exploration


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Massive and stockwork Fe-Cu-Zn (Cyprus type) sulphide deposits in the upper parts of ophiolite complexes represent hydrothermal mineralization at ancient accretionary plate boundaries. These deposits are probable metallogenic analogues of the polymetallic sulphide deposits recently discovered along modern oceanic spreading centres. Genetic models for these deposits suggest that mineralization results from large-scale circulation of sea-water through basaltic basement along the tectonically active axis of spreading, a zone of high heat flow. The high geothermal gradient above 1 to 2 km deep magma chambers emplaced below the ridge axis drives the convective circulation cell. Cold oxidizing sea-water penetrating the crust on the ridge flanks becomes heated and evolves into a highly reduced somewhat acidic hydrothermal solvent during interaction with basaltic wall-rock. Depending on the temperature and water/rock ratio, this fluid is capable of leaching and transporting iron, manganese, and base metals; dissolved sea-water sulphate is reduced to sulphide. At the ridge axis, the buoyant hydrothermal fluid rises through permeable wall-rocks, and fluid flow may be focussed along deep-seated fractures related to extensional tectonic processes. Metal sulphides are precipitated along channelways as the ascending fluid undergoes adiabatic expansion and then further cooling during mixing with ambient sub-sea-floor water. Vigorous fluid flow results in venting of reduced fluid at the sea-floor/sea-water interface and deposition of massive sulphide. A comparison of sulphide mineralization and wall-rock alteration in ancient and modern spreading centre environments supports this genetic concept. Massive sulphide deposits in ophiolites generally occur in clusters of closely spaced (< 1-5 km) deposits. Individual deposits are a composite of syngenetic massive sulphide and underlying epigenetic stockwork-vein mineralization. The massive sulphide occurs as concordant tabular, lenticular, or saucer-shaped bodies in pillow lavas and pillow-lava breccia; massive lava flows, hyalcoclastite, tuff, and bedded radolarian chert are less commonly associated rock types. These massive sulphide zones are as much as 700 m long, 200 m wide, and 50 m thick. The pipe-, funnel-, or keel-shaped stockwork zone may extend to a dehpth of 1 km in the sheeted-dike complex. Several deposits in Cyprus are confined to grabens or the hanging wall of premineralization normal faults. Polymetallic massive sulphide deposits and active hydrothermal vents at medium- to fast-rate spreading centres (the East Pacific Rise at lat. 21??N, the Galapagos Spreading Centre at long. 86??W, the Juan de Fuca Ridge at lat. 45??N., and the Southern Trough of Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California) have interdeposit spacings on a scale of tens or hundreds of metres, and are spatially associated with structural ridges or grabens within the narrow (< 5 km) axial valleys of the rift zones. Although the most common substrate for massive sulphide accumulations is stacked sequences of pillow basalt and sheet flows, the sea-floor underlying numerous deposits in Guaymas Basin consists of diatomaceous ooze and terrigenous clastic sediment that is intruded by diabase sills. Mound-like massive sulphide deposits, as much as 30 m wide and 5m high, occur over actively discharging vents on the East Pacific Rise, and many of these deposits serve as the base for narrow chimneys and spires of equal or greater height. Sulphides on the Juan de Fuca Ridge appear to form more widespread blanket deposits in the shallow axial-valley depression. The largest deposit found to date, along the axial ridge of the Galapagos Spreading Centre, has a tabular form and a length of 1000 m, a width of 200 m, and a height of 30 m. The sulphide assemblage in both massive and vein mineralization in Cyprus type deposits is characteristically simple: abundant pyrite or, less commonly, pyrrhotite accompanied by minor marcasite, chalcopyrite
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Sulphide mineralization and wall-rock alteration in ophiolites and modern oceanic spreading centres
Series title Journal of Geochemical Exploration
Volume 19
Issue 1-3
Year Published 1983
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Geochemical Exploration
First page 496
Last page 498
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