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The influence of spreading rate, basement composition, fluid chemistry and chimney morphology on the formation of gold-rich SMS deposits at slow and ultraslow mid-ocean ridges

The influence of spreading rate, basement composition, fluid chemistry and chimney morphology on the formation of gold-rich SMS deposits at slow and ultraslow mid-ocean ridges
The influence of spreading rate, basement composition, fluid chemistry and chimney morphology on the formation of gold-rich SMS deposits at slow and ultraslow mid-ocean ridges
Seafloor massive sulphide (SMS) deposits are variably enriched in precious metals including gold. However, the processes invoked to explain the formation of auriferous deposits do not typically apply to mid-ocean ridge settings. Here we show a statistically significant, negative correlation between the average gold concentration of SMS deposits with spreading rate, at non-sedimented mid-ocean ridges. Deposits located at slow spreading ridges (20-40 mm/a) have average gold concentrations of between 850-1600 ppb, however, with increasing spreading rate (up to 140 mm/a), gold concentrations gradually decrease to between ~50-150 ppb. This correlation of gold content with spreading rate may be controlled by the degree and duration of fluid-rock interaction, which is a function of the heat flux, crustal structure (faulting) and the permeability of the source rocks. Deposits at ultraslow ridges, including ultramafic-hosted deposits, are particularly enriched in gold. This is attributed to the higher permeability of the ultramafic source rocks achieved by serpentinisation and the inherent porosity of serpentine minerals, combined with relatively high gold concentrations in peridotite compared with mid-ocean ridge basalt. Variations in fluid chemistry, such as reducing conditions and the potential for increased sulphur availability at ultramafic-hosted sites may also contribute to the high concentrations observed. Beehive chimneys, which offer more favourable conditions for gold precipitation, may be more prevalent at ultramafic-hosted sites due to diffuse low-velocity venting compared with more focussed venting at basalt-hosted sites.
0026-4598
143–152
Knight, Robert
04d3bfd0-6c52-495f-954f-aa605ee9be2e
Roberts, Stephen
f095c7ab-a37b-4064-8a41-ae4820832856
Webber, Alexander
c9b7b1e3-ea40-4740-805e-914806eeaeb7
Knight, Robert
04d3bfd0-6c52-495f-954f-aa605ee9be2e
Roberts, Stephen
f095c7ab-a37b-4064-8a41-ae4820832856
Webber, Alexander
c9b7b1e3-ea40-4740-805e-914806eeaeb7

Knight, Robert, Roberts, Stephen and Webber, Alexander (2018) The influence of spreading rate, basement composition, fluid chemistry and chimney morphology on the formation of gold-rich SMS deposits at slow and ultraslow mid-ocean ridges. Mineralium Deposita, 53 (1), 143–152. (doi:10.1007/s00126-017-0762-4).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Seafloor massive sulphide (SMS) deposits are variably enriched in precious metals including gold. However, the processes invoked to explain the formation of auriferous deposits do not typically apply to mid-ocean ridge settings. Here we show a statistically significant, negative correlation between the average gold concentration of SMS deposits with spreading rate, at non-sedimented mid-ocean ridges. Deposits located at slow spreading ridges (20-40 mm/a) have average gold concentrations of between 850-1600 ppb, however, with increasing spreading rate (up to 140 mm/a), gold concentrations gradually decrease to between ~50-150 ppb. This correlation of gold content with spreading rate may be controlled by the degree and duration of fluid-rock interaction, which is a function of the heat flux, crustal structure (faulting) and the permeability of the source rocks. Deposits at ultraslow ridges, including ultramafic-hosted deposits, are particularly enriched in gold. This is attributed to the higher permeability of the ultramafic source rocks achieved by serpentinisation and the inherent porosity of serpentine minerals, combined with relatively high gold concentrations in peridotite compared with mid-ocean ridge basalt. Variations in fluid chemistry, such as reducing conditions and the potential for increased sulphur availability at ultramafic-hosted sites may also contribute to the high concentrations observed. Beehive chimneys, which offer more favourable conditions for gold precipitation, may be more prevalent at ultramafic-hosted sites due to diffuse low-velocity venting compared with more focussed venting at basalt-hosted sites.

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Knight_et_al._Au_Spreading_Rate_Accepted - Accepted Manuscript
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Accepted/In Press date: 25 August 2017
e-pub ahead of print date: 6 September 2017
Published date: 1 January 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 413938
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/413938
ISSN: 0026-4598
PURE UUID: 8fdbd8d4-c6f5-4855-abc2-6b2ec65cf4e9
ORCID for Stephen Roberts: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-4755-6703

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Date deposited: 11 Sep 2017 16:31
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 06:26

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Author: Robert Knight
Author: Stephen Roberts ORCID iD
Author: Alexander Webber

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