Global occurrence of tellurium-rich ferromanganese crusts and a model for the enrichment of tellurium

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
By: , and 



Hydrogenetic ferromanganese oxyhydroxide crusts (Fe-Mn crusts) precipitate out of cold ambient ocean water onto hard-rock surfaces (seamounts, plateaus, ridges) at water depths of about 400 to 4000 m throughout the ocean basins. The slow-growing (mm/Ma) Fe-Mn crusts concentrate most elements above their mean concentration in the Earth’s crust. Tellurium is enriched more than any other element (up to about 50,000 times) relative to its Earth’s crustal mean of about 1 ppb, compared with 250 times for the next most enriched element.

We analyzed the Te contents for a suite of 105 bulk hydrogenetic crusts and 140 individual crust layers from the global ocean. For comparison, we analyzed 10 hydrothermal stratabound Mn-oxide samples collected from a variety of tectonic environments in the Pacific. In the Fe-Mn crust samples, Te varies from 3 to 205 ppm, with mean contents for Pacific and Atlantic samples of about 50 ppm and a mean of 39 ppm for Indian crust samples. Hydrothermal Mn samples have Te contents that range from 0.06 to 1 ppm. Continental margin Fe-Mn crusts have lower Te contents than open-ocean crusts, which is the result of dilution by detrital phases and differences in growth rates of the hydrogenetic phases.

Correlation coefficient matrices show that for hydrothermal deposits, Te has positive correlations with elements characteristic of detrital minerals. In contrast, Te in open-ocean Fe-Mn crusts usually correlates with elements characteristic of the MnO2, carbonate fluorapatite, and residual biogenic phases. In continental margin crusts, Te also correlates with FeOOH associated elements. In addition, Te is negatively correlated with water depth of occurrence and positively correlated with crust thickness. Q-mode factor analyses support these relationships. However, sequential leaching results show that most of the Te is associated with FeOOH in Fe-Mn crusts and ≤10% is leached with the MnO2.

Thermodynamic calculations indicate that Te occurs predominantly as H5TeO6 in ocean water. The speciation of Te in ocean water and charge balance considerations indicate that Te should be scavenged by FeOOH, which is in agreement with our leaching results. The thermodynamically more stable Te(IV) is less abundant by factors of 2 to 3.5 than Te(VI) in ocean water. This can be explained by preferential (not exclusive) scavenging of Te(IV) by FeOOH at the Fe-Mn crust surface and by Fe-Mn colloids in the water column. We propose a model in which the extreme enrichment of Te in Fe-Mn crusts is likely the result of an oxidation reaction on the surface of FeOOH. A similar oxidation process has been confirmed for Co, Ce, and Tl at the surface of MnO2 in crusts, but has not been suggested previously to occur in association with FeOOH in Fe-Mn crusts. Mass-balance considerations indicate that ocean floor Fe-Mn deposits are the major sink for Te in the oceans. The concentration and redox chemistry of Te in the global ocean are likely controlled by scavenging on Fe-Mn colloids in the water column and Fe-Mn deposits on the ocean floor, as is also the case for Ce.

    Publication type Article
    Publication Subtype Journal Article
    Title Global occurrence of tellurium-rich ferromanganese crusts and a model for the enrichment of tellurium
    Series title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
    DOI 10.1016/S0016-7037(02)01279-6
    Volume 67
    Issue 6
    Year Published 2003
    Language English
    Publisher Elsevier
    Description 11 p.
    First page 1117
    Last page 1127
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