The Clara baryte-fluorite-(Ag-Cu) mine exploits a polyphase, mainly Jurassic to Cretaceous, hydrothermal unconformity vein-type deposit in the Schwarzwald, SW Germany. It is the type locality for 13 minerals, and more than 400 different mineral species have been described from this occurrence, making it one of the top five localities for mineral diversity on Earth.
The unusual mineral diversity is mainly related to the large number and diversity of secondary, supergene, and low-temperature hydrothermal phases formed from nine different primary ore-gangue associations observed over the last 40 years; these are: chert/quartz-hematite-pyrite-ferberite-scheelite with secondary W-bearing phases; fluorite-arsenide-selenide-uraninite-pyrite with secondary selenides and U-bearing phases (arsenates, oxides, vanadates, sulfates, and others); fluorite-sellaite with secondary Sr- and Mg-bearing phases; baryte-tennantite/tetrahedrite ss-chalcopyrite with secondary Cu arsenates, carbonates, and sulfates; baryte-tennantite/tetrahedrite ss-polybasite/pearceite-chalcopyrite, occasionally accompanied by Ag±Bi±Pb-bearing sulfides with secondary Sb oxides, Cu arsenates, carbonates, and sulfates; baryte-chalcopyrite with secondary Fe- and Cu-phosphates; baryte-pyrite-marcasite-chalcopyrite with secondary Fe- and Cu-sulfates; quartz-galena-gersdorffite-matildite with secondary Pb-, Bi-, Co-, and Ni-bearing phases; and siderite-dolomite-calcite-gypsum/anhydrite-quartz associations.
The first eight associations are of Jurassic to Cretaceous age and are related to at least eight different pulses of hydrothermal fluids (plus the meteoric fluids responsible for supergene oxidation); the last association is of Neogene age. Spatial juxtaposition of the various primary associations produces overlaps of the secondary associations. In addition to natural oxidation processes, two anthropogenic additions led to specific mineral associations: (1) lining of the adit walls with concrete resulted in high-pH assemblages of mainly Ca-rich phases, including arsenates and sulfates; and (2) the addition of hydrofluoric acid to counterbalance the high-pH fluids produced by power plant ashes introduced into the exploited parts of the mine resulted in fluoride assemblages of alkali and alkaline earth metals.
This contribution describes for the first time all types of assemblages and associations observed and physicochemical considerations and models of formation for some of the supergene associations. The meteoric fluids responsible for element mobilization and redistribution, and for the formation of new, secondary phases, interacted with wall rocks prior to and during percolation through the actual hydrothermal associations. Depending on the amount of reaction with ore, gangue, and host rock phases, the chemical composition of the meteoric fluids and its redox potential may vary over short distances. Hence different mineral assemblages and zoned associations record fluid compositional changes, even on the millimeter to centimeter scale. Unusual mineral diversity at the Clara mine therefore develops from a combination of diverse primary hydrothermal mineralization stages, an unusual number of fluid flow events involving compositionally different fluids, and local equilibrium conditions that change within centimeters during supergene processes involving meteoric fluids and anthropogenic additions.