Atacamite and paratacamite from the ultramafic-hosted Logatchev seafloor vent field (14°45′N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge)

Chemical Geology
By: , and 



Atacamite and paratacamite are ubiquitous minerals associated with Cu-rich massive sulfides at the Logatchev hydrothermal field (Mid-Atlantic Ridge). In this work we provide new details on the mineralogy and geochemistry of these basic cupric chlorides. Our data support the notion that atacamite and paratacamite formation at submarine vent fields is an alteration process of hydrothermal Cu-sulfides. Secondary Cu-sulfides (bornite, covellite) are unstable at ambient seawater conditions and will dissolve. Dissolution is focused at the sulfide–seawater contact, leading to release of Fe2+ and Cu+ and formation of residual chalcocite through an intermediate Cu5S4 phase. Most of the released Fe2+ oxidizes immediately and precipitates as FeOOH directly on the chalcocite rims whereas Cu as chloride complexes (CuCl2−, CuCl32-) remains in solution at the same Eh. Cuprous–chloride complexes migrate from the reaction zone and upon increasing Eh precipitate as Cu2Cl(OH)3. As a consequence of this, the sulfide–seawater reaction interface is clearly marked by thin chalcocite–FeOOH bands and the entire assemblage is mantled by atacamite (or paratacamite). Our mineralogical, petrographic, geochemical and isotopic studies suggest that there are two types of atacamite (and/or paratacamite) depending on their mode of precipitation. Type 1 atacamite precipitated directly on the parent sulfides as evidenced by mantling of the sulfides, absence of detrital mineral grains, a preserved conspicuous positive Eu anomaly and a negligible negative Ce anomaly similar to those of the parent sulfide. In addition, Au concentrations are slightly lower than those of the parent sulfides, which suggest minimal transport of Au-ions after their release from the sulfides. Furthermore, the low content of the rare earth elements implies short contact time with the ambient seawater. The Sr–Nd–Pb-isotopic signatures of type 1 atacamite confirm the genetic association with the parent sulfides and indicate formation spatially very close to the latter. Type 2 atacamite precipitated at some distance from the parent sulfides, which means that the cuprous–chloride complexes have moved away from the sulfide alteration zone before precipitation. The evidence for this is absence of direct association of atacamite with sulfides. In addition, this atacamite contains a substantial proportion of detrital minerals, which implies precipitation in the sediments, distal to the parent sulfides. As a consequence of the detrital impurities the contents of elements like Cr, Cs, Hf, Nb, Rb, Th and Zr are higher than in type 1 atacamite (and/or paratacamite). Au contents are lower than those of type 1 atacamite (and/or paratacamite) which implies prolonged Au transport in solution before precipitation. Furthermore, the rare earth element distribution patterns have no positive Eu anomaly suggesting that the positive Eu anomaly of the parent sulfide has been erased after dissolution and prolonged contact of the fluid with ambient seawater (with negative Eu anomaly). Finally, the Sr–Nd-isotope signature differs from that of the parent sulfide and indicates a considerable terrigenous input.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Atacamite and paratacamite from the ultramafic-hosted Logatchev seafloor vent field (14°45′N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge)
Series title Chemical Geology
DOI 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2011.05.002
Volume 286
Issue 3-4
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Publisher location Amsterdam, Netherlands
Description 16 p.
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Chemical Geology
First page 169
Last page 184
Other Geospatial Atlantic Ocean