Abstract

“Les Mines Selbaie” is a large, generally low-grade, polymetallic (Zn, Cu, Ag, Au) “giant” volcanic-associated ore deposit in the Harricana-Turgeon belt, which is part of the northern Abitibi Subprovince of Quebec. Economically recoverable mineralization occurred in three zones: the A1 (open pit), A2, and B Zones (underground). The pre-mining resource was 54.9 Mt, including 8 Mt of sub-economic, locally silver-rich massive pyrite. In the Selbaie region, calc-alkaline andesitic volcanics form the “basement.” The Brouillan Volcanic Complex formed within an island-arc setting on this regional basement. Evolution of this complex involved the formation of a felsic magma chamber and the development of a large caldera structure over the Brouillan batholith. Second-order linear and sub-parallel faults and rifts developed as a result of back-arc rifting/extension. The edges of these rifts were feeders for linear felsic volcanism (similar to fissural volcanism). During felsic volcanism, the feeder zones acted as conduits for hydrothermal fluids with associated pervasive potassic alteration. The alteration is characterized both vertically and laterally by well-defined quartz, sericite, K-feldspar and/or, locally, biotite halos, to produce a mushroom-shaped morphology. This K-feldspar alteration is not common in most other volcanic-associated ore deposits. Mafic dikes cut all of the geological units and appear to occupy earlier synvolcanic structures. Regional green-schist-assemblage metamorphism and pervasive deformation affect all units. Thrust faults moved part of the Brouillan batholith and basement units over the Mine Sequence. Although there is no relationship between the earlier mineralizing events and these late thrust faults, the thrust faults probably played an important role in location of ore lenses.

Three types of mineralization are present: 1) copper-rich veins and hydraulic breccias; 2) disseminated and stringer, low-grade and high volume zinc-copper mineralization; and 3) finely laminated, massive, locally silver-rich pyrite mineralization within structural basins. At the bottom of these basins and at the contact of welded acid tuff (WAT) units, massive pyrite zones are locally enriched in zinc, and contain the possible vestiges of black smoker-like material. The ore metals were probably derived from leached basement andesitic volcanics in a hydrothermal system powered by one or more heat sources within the Brouillan Volcanic Complex.

The Selbaie deposits are mainly characterized by: (1) the presence of small volcano-tectonic subsidence basins, which host chemical sediments and volcaniclastic materials; (2) pervasive potassic alteration; (3) locally high-grade silver mineralization (up to 1-2 kg/t Ag); and (4) the presence of random zones of Pb mineralization.

The Selbaie deposits can be closely compared with the copper-rich Murgul deposits, which belong to the eastern Pontides metallogenetic province in Turkey. If conventional classification criteria for the volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits (e.g., Noranda, Mattabi types, and recent subsea floor deposits) are taken into account, the Selbaie deposits still exhibit many differences in terms of alteration assemblages, physical volcanology and some styles of mineralization (low-grade and large volume). Consequently, the “Selbaie” deposits belong to a new sub-type of volcanic-associated sulfide deposit, which may be used in future exploration programs.

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