In addition to the common and abundant features in karst terranes, stalactites involving a wide variety of minerals have also been found in other settings, including epigenetic mineral deposits, but these are almost always associated with supergene stages. Here we describe a different mode of occurrence from the Creede epithermal ore deposits, in Colorado, wherein stalactites of silica, sphalerite, galena, or pyrite formed in a vapor-dominated setting, below the paleo-water table, and except possibly for pyrite, as part of the hypogene mineralization. Axial cavities may, or may not, be present. No stalagmites have been recognized. The stalactites are small, from a few millimeters to a few centimeters long and a few millimeters in outer diameter. They represent only a small fraction of one percent of the total mineralization, and are covered by later crystals. Their growth orientation usually is unobservable; however, the parallel arrangement of all stalactites in a given specimen, consistency with indicators of gravitational settling, and the common presence of axial structures make the stalactitic interpretation almost unavoidable. In contrast with common carbonate stalactites, the growth mechanism for the sulfide and silica stalactites requires extensive evaporation. Stalactitic forms have also been reported from other deposits, mostly epithermal or Mississippi-Valley-type occurrences, but we caution that stalactite-like features can form by alternative processes.
Additional publication details
Occurrence and significance of stalactites within the epithermal deposits at Creede, Colorado