Abstract

The silver deposits to the immediate north and west of Lake Superior are divided into three groups. The Mainland veins, the largest group, occur along a zone of normal faults near the western margin of the Proterozoic rocks of the Southern Province. The most economically productive deposits, the Island group, arc in or very near a northeast-trending swarm of gabbro dykes lying immediately offshore the northwestern shore of Lake Superior. The third group occurs near the western margin of the Port Coldwell alkalic complex; these veins are in a shear zone that cuts both Archean metasedimentary rocks and a Proterozoic diabase dyke. The Mainland deposits occur in the Rove shale, immediately below the contact with Logan diabase sills. The veins locally extend upwards into the sills, but the silver-bearing portions, consisting of acanthite and native silver associated with base-metal sulphides, fluorite, barite, quartz, and calcite, are largely bounded by locally silicified shale. The Island veins, typified by the Silver Islet mine, are in fractures perpendicular to the gabbro-dyke host rocks. These veins contain both native silver and acanthite, associated with a Ni–Co sulpharsenide suite and the same mineral assemblage as the Mainland deposits. The veins near Coldwell are rich in sphalerite and galena.Lead-isotope data indicate that the Mainland and Island veins are genetically related and that the Mainland veins formed from an inhomogeneous fluid. Two-stage calculations indicate an early Proterozoic source rock, possibly the Rove shale. The Island veins are more isotopically homogeneous, and their metals may have been derived partially from the gabbro. The Coldwell veins contain lead that is less radiogenic than that of the other two groups and is possibly derived from the adjacent Archean rocks. All three groups of deposits have isotopic compositions that are much less uranogenic and more thorogenic than the nearby Pb–Zn–Ba veins of the Dorion area. Preliminary fluid-inclusion data from the Mainland veins indicate that deposition occurred from a fluid whose temperature varied from approximately 200 °C to more than 400 °C; deposition occurred during boiling induced by adiabatic expansion of the fluid at relatively shallow crustal depths. The Mainland veins developed in the shale (rather than the diabase), as its high fissility, and hence permeability, made it susceptible to intense fracturing by the expanding fluid. Both the Mainland and Island groups were deposited in structures formed dominantly by listric normal faulting during late stages of intracontinental rifting. Heat was supplied by abundant mafic intrusions that formed coincident with rifting. The ore fluid was probably formed as a result of metamorphic dewatering, with metals released to the fluid because of silicate and sulphide recrystallization.

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