Abstract

The following seven papers were presented on May 16, 1984, at the Geological Association of Canada and Mineralogical Association of Canada joint annual meeting. The special session, organized by R. W. Macqueen and J. A. Coope, contained 10 papers and was sponsored by the Mineral Deposits Division of the Geological Association of Canada.Our objective in organizing the special session was to examine organically based processes and relationships that may be of major importance to the origin of ore deposits. As noted by Fyfe (1984), the concept of the geochemical cycle focuses attention on pathways of chemical elements and isotopes of the Earth's system during geologic history. It is clear from the chemistry of carbon-rich materials that a wide range of elements is concentrated directly or indirectly by biological processes operating as part of the geochemical cycle. Two of the papers of the special session examine some of these concentration processes, although definitive links to actual ore deposits cannot be made yet. Beveridge and Fyfe document the remarkable ability of the anionic cell walls of certain bacteria to concentrate metals and to provide sites for nucleation and growth of minerals. In a related paper, Mann and Fyfe show that several species of simple freshwater green algae readily concentrate large amounts of uranium under both experimental and natural conditions (Elliot Lake and Thames River, Ontario).Two papers deal with aspects of sulphate reduction. Birnbaum and Wireman describe controlled experiments that suggest that sulphate-reducing bacteria may be involved in the selective replacement of sulphate-evaporite minerals by silica and in the precipitation of silica in association with sulphide mineral phases in banded iron formations. Their work focuses directly on the effect that bacterial sulphate reduction has on silica solubility. Trudinger et al. examine the question of mechanisms of sulphate reduction at temperatures less than 200 °C and the bearing this has on origin of sulphide for low-temperature sulphide ore deposits. Although there is empirical evidence favouring abiological sulphate reduction at temperatures in the vicinity of 100 °C, Trudinger et al. have not been able to demonstrate abiological reduction of sulphate under controlled laboratory conditions and at temperatures under about 200 °C. Perhaps catalysts, as yet undiscovered, are involved in this process in nature.Impressive progress has been made in understanding the diagenetic evolution of organic matter in response to heat and pressure in geological environments: excellent reviews are found in Barnes et al. (1984) and Bustin et al. (1985). Simoneit's paper examines and reviews the genesis of petroleum in a most unusual setting, that of the active ocean ridge spreading centre of Guaymas Basin, Gulf of California. There, in the vicinity of black smokers and associated metallic sulphide deposits, petroleum originates instantaneously geologically as a result of hydrothermal activity. The question of genetic involvement of organic matter in the origin of the metallic sulphides (e.g., reduction of sulphate to H2S) cannot be answered yet for this setting with the available data.The final two special session papers included here are concerned with organic matter associated with mineralization in Canadian Shield Precambrian settings. Willingham et al. demonstrate that Elliot Lake – Blind River Early Proterozoic uranium deposits with minor amounts of associated gold also contain kerogen-like organic matter. Some of this organic matter has anomalously rich amounts of gold and uranium and appears to have originated as mats of cyanobacteria, possibly with the ability to concentrate these metals. For a number of settings in the Archean-aged Abitibi greenstone belt of Ontario and Quebec, Springer demonstrates that carbon, at least partly of organic origin, is closely associated with some gold deposits. Her interpretation is that carbon activated by shear-zone-associated hydrothermal fluids has provided sites for fixing some of the gold.Three of the papers given at the special session are not included here. H. T. Shacklette reviewed metal uptake by young conifer trees, demonstrating that nursery-grown seedlings of several species readily concentrated a variety of metals, including lead, zinc, tin, and gold, over a 7 year period. This work is of interest to those involved in geochemical prospecting and is now published elsewhere (King et al. 1984). R. W. Macqueen presented quantitative data on the genesis of sulphide by abiological bitumen–sulphate reactions at the Pine Point lead–zinc property, Northwest Territories, Canada (Macqueen and Powell 1983; Powell and Macqueen 1984). Although Trudinger et al. have not been able to demonstrate abiological reduction of sulphate at temperatures approximating those of Pine Point graphic, the data presented by Macqueen (Powell and Macqueen 1984) are consistent with the amounts, alteration, and composition of bitumens at Pine Point, as well as with the presence of native sulphur and the sulphur isotope compositions of the various Pine Point sulphur species. This work is continuing, and a more extensive account is in preparation. J. R. Watterson examined relationships between freezing climates and the local chemical behaviour of gold in the weathering cycle, concluding that ice-induced accumulation of organic acids, bacteria, and other organic matter at mineral surfaces may increase rates of chemical attack, leading to dissolution of normally insoluble metals such as gold (Watterson 1986).Interest in organic aspects of the geochemical cycle, including ore deposition, is growing dramatically (e.g., Fyfe 1984). Although the following papers address a limited range of topics within the field, they do indicate some of the diversity and variety of active processes and associations between metallic elements and organic components. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, we will be able to identify or even discover whole classes of ore deposits that owe their origin directly to organic influences operating within the geochemical cycle.

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