Abstract

The Ag–sulpharsenide vein deposits of northeastern Ontario occur along the north and northeastern margins of the Cobalt Embayment, a large irregular domain of Huronian-age clastic sediments intruded by Nipissing diabase sills and crosscut by regional-scale fault systems. The vein systems are mostly fault controlled, with mineralization always occurring adjacent to or within the diabase sills. Many of the mineralized structures crosscut the sills. All the economically productive deposits occur in close proximity to the Huronian–Archean unconformity where diabase sills and steeply dipping Archean volcanic sequences coincide.The vein systems show remarkable consistencies in their mineralogy, textures, and paragenesis. Their formation involved the precipitation of silicates (mainly quartz, chlorite, actinolite ± K-feldspar) during initial, limited dilation; this was followed by the introduction of significant quantities of carbonate (mainly calcite ± dolomite) during subsequent dilatant episodes. Most of the ore was precipitated during the silicate to carbonate transition. Wall-rock alteration haloes exhibit a silicate to carbonate paragenesis similar to that evident in the veins. Feldspathization is an important consequence of the alteration process, manifesting in the ubiquitous occurrence of albite in Nipissing diabase wall rocks and sporadic occurrences of K-feldspar in Archean basalt wall rocks.The mineralogy and chemistry of the veins and altered wall rocks indicate that CO2, Ca, Na, K, Ag, As, Co, Pb, rare earth elements, and in some cases Hg and Au were among the components introduced with the hydrothermal fluids. This was accompanied by significant net loss of Si, Fe, Mg, Zn, B, Li, and Sc from the wall rocks. The nature of the wall-rock alteration suggests that the mineralizing fluids were of high alkalinity and relatively low graphic. They were not derived through lateral secretion but were introduced from a source remote from the immediate environment of ore deposition.Wall-rock alteration postdates the establishment of a low-temperature, regional alteration of the diabases and a chlorite spotting alteration in the Huronian sediments; the latter is a contact metamorphic effect accompanying diabase intrusion. These data indicate that Ag–sulpharsenide vein formation postdated intrusion of the diabases and much (possibly all) of their cooling histories.Collectively, our data discourage the theory that the Nipissing diabase sills acted purely as a heat and (or) fluid source in vein formation. A structural model is proposed in which the diabase sills acted as mechanically favourable sites for fracture generation during regional fault activity. This factor, together with the advent of boiling and (or) degassing of the mineralizing fluids at these specific sites are viewed as possible critical parameters mediating the localization and deposition of Ag–sulpharsenide ore. This model provides a reasonable explanation for the local and regional distribution of the deposits and appears to best satisfy all the geological, petrographic, and geochemical criteria.

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