Abstract

This is the first reported occurrence of an active hydrothermal field in an oceanic fracture zone setting. The hydrothermal field occurs in a pull-apart basin within the Blanco Fracture Zone (BFZ), which has four distinct mineral deposit types: (1) barite mounds and chimneys, (2) barite stockwork breccia, (3) silica-barite beds, and (4) silica, barite, and Fe-Mn oxyhydroxide in sediments. All deposit types contain minor amounts of sulfides. In barite stockwork, silica-barite beds, and mineralized sediment, Ba, Pb, Ag, S, Au, Zn, Cu, Hg, Tl, As, Mo, Sb, U, Cd, and Cu are enriched relative to unmineralized rocks and sediments of the BFZ. Fe and Mn are not enriched in the barite stockwork or silica-barite beds, but along with P, Co, and Mg are enriched in the mineralized sediments. Silver contents in deposits of the hydrothermal field range up to 86 ppm, gold to 0.7 ppm, zinc to 3.2%, copper to 0.8%, and barium to 22%. Mineralization occurred by diffuse, low to intermediate temperature (mostly <250 degrees C) discharge of hydrothermal fluids through pillow lavas and ponds of mixed volcaniclastic and biosiliceous sediments. Bacterial mats were mineralized by silica, barite, and minor Fe hydroxides, or less commonly, by Mn oxyhydroxides. Pervasive mineralization of bacterial mats resulted in formation of silica-barite beds. Silica precipitated from hydrothermal fluids by conductive cooling and mixing with seawater. Sulfate, U, and rare earth elements (REEs) in barite were derived from seawater, whereas the REE content of hydrothermal silica deposits and mineralized sediments is associated with the aluminosilicate detrital fraction. Fe-, Zn-, Cu-, Pb-, and Hg-sulfide minerals, Ba in barite, and Eu in all mineralized deposits were derived from hydrothermal fluids. Manganese oxides and associated elements (Co, Sb, Mo, W, Cl, and Cu) and Fe oxides and associated elements (Be, B, P, and Mo) precipitated as the result of mixing of hydrothermal fluids with seawater.

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