Abstract

Volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposits, an important base-metal deposit type in China, occur widely in submarine volcanic districts of variable magmatic affinities. These VMS deposits range in age from Archean to Mesozoic, but most are in Proterozoic and Paleozoic sequences. More than 60% of VMS deposits formed in the Paleozoic, the most important metallogenic eon. Three important Paleozoic VMS-metallogenic provinces include Northern Qilian, Sanjiang and Altai provinces. The Proterozoic constitutes the next important era, but with no VMS deposits in the middle Proterozoic. VMS deposits associated with the Proterozoic volcanic rocks occur around the Yangtze Platform and in the western Kunlun-Qinling. The Triassic is third in importance, with VMS deposits concentrated in the Sanjiang Tethys. The Archean has only one VMS deposit, on the northern margin of the Sino-Korea Platform. Five distinct compositional classes of Chinese VMS deposits have been distinguished: Cu, Cu-Zn (or Zn-Cu), Cu-Fe, Zn-Pb-Cu, and Pb-Zn (-Cu). The Cu, Cu-Co, and Cu-Zn types of deposits occur sporadically from the Archean to Paleozoic, and are closely associated with mafic and ultramafic volcanic sequences. The Zn-Pb-Cu and some Cu-Zn type deposits are restricted to the Paleozoic and Triassic, and are hosted by calc-alkaline felsic rocks in bimodal basalt-rhyolite sequences, whereas Cu-Fe and Pb-Zn type (except for the Laochang deposit) deposits are restricted to the Proterozoic and occur in calc-alkaline volcanic sequences. As large quantities of marine mafic volcanic rocks were deposited in western China, Cu and Cu-Zn deposits are major types of Chinese VMS deposits. Chinese VMS deposits formed in a wide range of paleo-tectonic settings and depositional environments, such as island-arcs, rifts, aulacogens, and ocean ridge hot spots. Among these, the rift and back-arc environments are the most important, containing about 60% of Chinese VMS deposits. Aulacogens are a subordinate environment where most of the Proterozoic VMS deposits formed. The oceanic ridge and hot-spot systems are common in the tectono-magmatic domains in China, but contain only a few small Cu and Cu-Zn type VMS deposits. The Chinese VMS deposits have usually been influenced by both deformation and metamorphism to various degrees, resulting in changes in the shape and metal distribution. Seven representative deposit styles have been recognized: sheets, sheet plus strata-bound stringer, cyclically zoned deposits, mounds, mound-like deposits, strata-bound stringer-disseminated, and stockwork-disseminated deposits. The formation of these various styles of deposits is controlled by several key factors, such as lithology and permeability of the host rocks, focused or unfocused discharge, temperature and chemical composition (e.g., salinity) of hydrothermal fluids, as well as depth of seawater.

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