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The internal structure of an active sea-floor massive sulfide deposit


Humphris, SE and Herzig, PM and Miller, DJ and Gemmell, JB, The internal structure of an active sea-floor massive sulfide deposit, Nature, 377, (6551) pp. 713-716. ISSN 0028-0836 (1995) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Nature Publishing Group

DOI: doi:10.1038/377713a0


The hydrothermal circulation of sea water through permeable ocean crust results in rock–water interactions that lead to the formation of massive sulphide deposits. These are the modern analogues of many ancient ophiolite-hosted deposits, such as those exposed in Cyprus. Here we report results obtained from drilling a series of holes into an actively forming sulphide deposit on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. A complex assemblage of sulphide–anhydrite–silica breccias provides striking evidence that such hydrothermal mounds do not grow simply by the accumulation of sulphides on the sea floor. Indeed, the deposit grows largely as an in situ breccia pile, as successive episodes of hydrothermal activity each form new hydrothermal precipitates and cement earlier deposits. During inactive periods, the collapse of sulphide chimneys, dissolution of anhydrite, and disruption by faulting cause brecciation of the deposit. The abundance of anhydrite beneath the present region of focused hydrothermal venting reflects the high temperatures (> 150 °C) currently maintained within the mound, and implies substantial entrainment of cold sea water into the interior of the deposit. These observations demonstrate the important role of anhydrite in the growth of massive sulphide deposits, despite its absence in those preserved on land.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Geology
Research Field:Resource geoscience
Objective Division:Mineral Resources (Excl. Energy Resources)
Objective Group:Other mineral resources (excl. energy resources)
Objective Field:Other mineral resources (excl. energy resources) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Gemmell, JB (Professor Bruce Gemmell)
ID Code:9367
Year Published:1995
Web of Science® Times Cited:238
Deposited By:Earth Sciences
Deposited On:1995-08-01
Last Modified:2015-11-04

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