Volcanic-hosted massive sulfide (VMS) occurrences in the Quinns district are hosted predominantly by ca. 2814–2800 Ma banded iron formation (BIF) within a sequence of rhyolite, basalt, and minor siltstone. The VMS occurrences and their surrounding rocks are folded, metamorphosed, and deeply weathered and variably covered by transported regolith. This study uses an integrated petrological and geochemical approach to map gradients in synvolcanic mineral and element abundances, with the aim of understanding the effects of postvolcanic processes on Archean VMS ore.
Rhyolite-dominant footwall rocks and the BIF record kilometer-scale gradients in alteration mineral patterns and geochemistry. Rhyolite exposed throughout the district and intersected by drill holes records distal alteration assemblages of quartz-white mica ± chlorite. At the Austin deposit in the western part of the district, abundant talc and anthophyllite with minor cummingtonite and hornblende are associated with mineralization in the BIF, indicating intense magnesium metasomatism. Further away from mineralization, chlorite is the dominant alteration mineral. Adjacent rhyolite is altered to chlorite in proximal zones and white micas in more distal areas. Approaching known VMS prospects in the eastern half of the district, the rhyolite grades into a 2 × 1 km zone of schistose rhyolite with generally dispersed, but locally abundant, coarse-grained andalusite ± kyanite ± garnet rhyolitic schist. This broad Al-rich silicate alteration zone envelops two discrete 1 km × 500 m proximal alteration zones in rhyolite, defined by chlorite ± talc, with minor disseminated magnetite, pyrite, and chalcopyrite. The northernmost proximal alteration zone lies stratigraphically below the BIF-hosted Cu-Zn-rich gossan exposed near the Tasman prospect. The proximal zones are interpreted to be the result of the interaction between synvolcanic, Mg-rich fluids and rhyolite footwall at the time of VMS mineralization and BIF deposition.
In contrast, outer zones of andalusite ± kyanite ± garnet suggest the removal of silica and alkali elements and residual concentration of aluminium in rhyolite footwall by acidic synvolcanic hydrothermal fluids prior to peak regional metamorphism. The mapped patterns in alteration minerals mirror bulk rock geochemical gradients in rhyolite; proximal alteration zones are enriched in Cu, Zn, Ag, Au, Bi, Fe2O3, In, MgO, Mo, S, Se, and Te, with local enrichments in As, Cd, MnO, Pb, and V. These rocks are depleted in Ba, K2O, Li, Na2O, and Rb relative to least-altered rhyolite. Rhyolite located up to 100 m from proximal alteration zones is enriched in Ag, Fe2O3, In, K2O, MgO, S, and V. Banded iron formation hosting massive sulfides is altered to talc, anthophyllite, chlorite, and magnetite; these rocks are enriched in Cu, Zn, Pb, Ag, and Sn, with local enrichments in Bi, In, and MgO. Positive Eu anomalies are associated with mineralized BIF in the Austin VMS deposit and contrast with the mostly flat REE slopes for the BIF sampled from less mineralized areas in the district. The kilometer-scale gradients in hydrothermal alteration minerals and bulk rock geochemistry in rhyolite and the BIF are interpreted to be mostly controlled by synvolcanic hydrothermal alteration related to the development of VMS-related hydrothermal fluid pathways. Metamorphism of the synvolcanic alteration was isochemical, apart from localized metasomatism related to later shear zones or fault zones. The defined alteration mineral and geochemical gradients serve as useful tools for detecting fluid alteration pathways related to VMS systems in complexly deformed and metamorphosed districts globally.