Synvolcanic structures played a fundamental role in the genesis, morphology, and siting of volcanogenic massive sulfide ores and associated hydrothermal alteration in the Archean South Sturgeon Lake caldera complex. The most voluminous and persistent hydrothermal venting and massive sulfide deposition occurred along synvolcanic rifts and grabens associated with faults and tectonic fissures that created permeable fracture zones deep enough to access the underlying hydrothermal reservoir. The type of fracturing is highly variable and changes with the composition, competency, degree of consolidation, and alteration of host rocks. Synvolcanic structures and fracture styles also vary according to the amount and type of tectonic movement, including extension-related collapse, shearing and faulting perpendicular to the principal direction of extension, and orthogonal faulting and shearing. Permeable conduits were created by tension fracturing along fault zones, brittle deformation at the intersections of orthogonal faults, and by extensional fractures in stockworks. In texturally uniform footwall rocks, the distribution of alteration zones was controlled by the morphology of the structural conduit. In rocks with vertical and/or lateral facies, permeability, and competency changes (e.g., Lyon Lake graben), there was an additional stratigraphic control over fluid migration. Some crosscutting synvolcanic structures, alteration zones, and intrusions appear as stratiform units at the present erosion surface due to regional deformation and the present attitude of the volcanic stratigraphy.
Hydrothermal mineral assemblages (e.g., quartz, carbonates, chlorite, pyrite, chalcopyrite) infilling structurally induced fractures provide good evidence of fluid migration pathways. However, mineralogy can vary significantly according to the fluid characteristics, host rock geochemistry, and subsequent metamorphic history of the area.
Clearly, one of the best methods for locating volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits is to delineate the attitudes of synvolcanic structures, and explore those that show evidence of associated high-temperature hydrothermal mineral assemblages. Excellent exploration targets occur where synvolcanic structures with hydrothermal alteration intersect paleo-seafloor horizons.