The relationship between base metal deposits, especially Mississippi Valley–type (MVT) Pb–Zn deposits, and hydrocarbons is not well constrained. This is despite the fact that hydrocarbons generally occur in MVT deposits; the ores are emplaced in the same temperature range as hydrocarbon maturation and migration, and the deposits commonly occur in proximity to metal-rich black shales. Better understanding should lead to better exploration models for both hydrocarbons and MVT deposits. This connection is better understood with the help of Pb isotope patterns. Sphalerite Pb isotope compositions from the northern Arkansas and Tri-State mining districts and Woodford–Chattanooga and Fayetteville Shales were determined to assess the potential of shales as source rocks for the ore metals. The ores in both districts have a broad range of Pb isotope ratios and define linear trends, suggesting mixing of Pb from two distinct end members. Current results and previous depositional environment studies indicate the following: (1) shales deposited mainly under nonsulfidic anoxic conditions represent the less radiogenic end member, or (2) shales are the only source of ore metals. Given the array of organic molecules, each with their own thermochemical range, and the ways metals can be associated with them, the release of metals may cover varying ranges. Thus, the compositions of the released fluids would change through time and not have a single static composition, closely approximating the isotopic composition of the released metals at various times. Mineralization derived from a dynamically evolving fluid may show apparent end members, without the need to call on mixing of fluids from separate sources.

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