Detailed fluid inclusion studies on coarse-grained sphalerite from the OH vein, Creede, Colorado, have shown that the abrupt color changes between growth zones correspond to abrupt changes in the nature of the ore fluids. Within each growth zone, however, the composition of the fluids remained constant. The base of a distinctive orange-brown growth zone marks a sharp increase in both temperature and salinity relative to the preceding yellow-white zone. The orange-brown growth zone can be correlated along much of the vein and is believed to represent a time-stratigraphic interval. Along the vein, temperatures and salinities of fluid inclusions within this interval show a systematic decrease from about 285??C and 11.5 wt percent NaCl equiv near the base of the vein to about 250??C and 8 wt percent NaCl equiv, respectively, near the top of the vein. The iron concentration of this sphalerite growth zone shows a similar pattern, decreasing from about 2.8 to 1.2 mole percent FeS. When plotted on an enthalpy-salinity diagram, the fluid inclusion data define a spatial trend indicating the progressive mixing of deeply circulating hydrothermal brines with overlying, dilute ground waters. The hydrothermal brines entered the OH vein from below at a temperature, salinity, and density of approximately 285??C, 11.5 wt percent NaCl equiv, and 860 kg/m3, respectively, whereas the overlying ground waters appear to have been preheated to roughly 150??C and had an assumed salinity of 0 wt percent and a density of 920 kg/m3. The greater density of the heated ground water promoted mixing with the hydrothermal brine within the open fractures, causing sphalerite deposition. Although there were also episodes of boiling during vein mineralization, boiling appears unimportant for this sphalerite. Isotopic evidence and geochemical modeling studies also indicate that mixing was the depositional mechanism for sphalerite. An important aspect of the mixing hydrology of the Creede system involves an aquitard overlying the OH vein. This low permeability zone restricted the flow of ground water into the vein from above and forced the upwelling hydrothermal fluids to flow laterally along the vein. The mixing environment thus occurred along the interface between a deeply circulating hydrothermal convection cell and a topographically driven shallow ground-water system.
Additional publication details
Environment of ore deposition in the creede mining district, San Juan Mountains, Colorado: Part V. Epithermal mineralization from fluid mixing in the OH vein