Mobility of gold and other metals during alteration of the oceanic crust: Implications for the formation of VMS deposits
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Tremendous physical and chemical exchanges occur along oceanic ridges between the lithosphere, the hydrosphere and the biosphere. During these exchanges important mobilisation of metals by hydrothermal fluid circulation takes place within the oceanic crust. Volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits are hydrothermal ore deposits rich in Cu-Zn-Pb bearing sulphide minerals that form during submarine venting of these hydrothermal fluids near the seafloor. A proportion of the metals enriched in these deposits are mobilised from deeper crustal levels during high-temperature hydrothermal alteration. Gold-rich VMS deposits represent an important sub-set of VMS deposits that are enriched in Au and related elements such as As, Sb, Se and Te. The processes that form Au-rich VMS are still debated, due in part to our lack of understanding of the behaviour of these elements during formation and alteration of the oceanic crust.
In this thesis we carry out a systematic investigation into the behaviour of Au, As, Sb, Se and Te during evolution of the oceanic crust. Three localities are studied: the Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Hole 1256D in the Cocos plate, the Troodos ophiolite in Cyprus and the ODP Hole 786B in the Izu-Bonin forearc. The investigation has been carried out using cutting-edge analytical techniques including ultra-low detection limit analyses of Au and other metals in rock samples. The objectives of the thesis are 1) to quantify the mobilisation of metals including Au, related elements As, Sb, Se and Te and base metals during the alteration of the oceanic crust; 2) to determine the mineral reactions which promote this mobilisation; 3) to investigate the variability in metal mobility in different tectonic settings in the oceanic crust and 4) to investigate the extent to which the composition of “source area” oceanic crust controls the composition of VMS deposits in different tectonic settings.
The main outcomes of this study are fourfold. 1) The distribution of Au and related elements in primary crust varies considerably between different tectonic settings. Sulphide minerals play an important role in the behaviour of Au, Se and Cu during magmatic differentiation and hydrothermal alteration, but have a lesser influence on other metals. The oxidation state of the primary crust controls whether sulphide minerals are present, and thus is an important control on the budget and mobility of strongly chalcophile metals during hydrothermal alteration. 2) Large masses of Au and related elements are mobilised from the sheeted dyke complex in mid-oceanic ridge (MOR) and ophiolite settings. Significantly more metals are mobilised from the source areas than are trapped in the VMS deposits observed in these settings. Therefore, most of the metals mobilised from the source areas are lost, either during transport, venting, sedimentation or late fluid mobilisation. 3) Insufficient Au is mobilised from MOR settings at ODP Hole 1256D to form Au-rich VMS deposits. The quantity of Au mobilised from the Troodos ophiolite could potentially lead to Au-rich VMS formation but additional processes such as vapour separation by sub-seafloor boiling or magmatic volatile input would be required to increase the Au : base metal ratio. The lack of evidence for these processes in Troodos implies that Au-rich VMS deposits are not likely to be abundant in this area. 4) Isotopic and trace element evidence supports magmatic input in the hydrothermal system at ODP Hole 786B, implying that magmatic fluid input into hydrothermal systems leaves a specific signature which can be tracked.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm University , 2016. , 44 p.
Meddelanden från Stockholms universitets institution för geologiska vetenskaper, 364
Research subject Geology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-132782ISBN: 978-91-7649-478-3OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-132782DiVA: diva2:955241
2016-10-14, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Hannington, Mark, Professor
Pitcairn, Iain K., Associate professorTeagle, Damon A. H., Professor
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Submitted. Paper 4: Manuscript.2016-09-212016-08-232016-09-12Bibliographically approved
List of papers