The carbonate-hosted Pb–Zn deposits in the Sichuan–Yunnan–Guizhou (SYG) triangle region are important Indosinian deposits in South China. The Tianbaoshan deposit is a typical large Pb–Zn deposit in the SYG area and occurs as pipe-like type, hosted by Sinian dolostone. It contains ∼26 Mt Zn–Pb ore (7.76–10.09 % Zn, 1.28–1.50 % Pb and 93.6 g t−1 Ag) and >0.1 Mt Cu ore (2.55 % Cu). In this study, the detailed mineral textures, mineral chemical and sulphur isotopic compositions of the various sulphides have been analysed to constrain the abnormal enrichment mechanism and mineralization relationship. Four mineralization stages have been recognized: Stage 1, minor early pyrite (Py1) with relics and infill of intergranular dolomite or quartz grains; Stage 2, Cu mineralization with coarse-grained, elliptical crystal chalcopyrite (Cp1); (3) Stage 3, Zn mineralization with dark fine-grained sphalerite (Sph1) and light coarse-grained sphalerite (Sph2); and (4) Stage 4, as represented by a quartz–calcite assemblage with galena, minor pyrite (Py2) and chalcopyrite (Cp2). The petrography of the sulphide minerals (Py1, Cp1, Sph1 and Sph2) demonstrates a mutual inclusion relationship. The nature of this relationship from core to rim and their similar sulphur isotope values (5.5–8.3 ‰) indicates a single sulphur source, suggesting that the different mineralization types are the result of different stages of a continuous hydrothermal system. Sphalerite geothermometer study suggests that sphalerite in the Tianbaoshan deposit formed in a low-temperature (<200 °C) hydrothermal system. The low concentrations of Mn and In, low In/Ge ratios and high Fe/Cd ratios in the sphalerite are consistent with those of Mississippi Valley-type (MVT) deposits, but different from those of magmatism-related deposits (e.g. epithermal, skarn and VMS deposits). The positive δ34S values for Py1 (5.1–7.9 ‰), Cp1 (5.1–7.2 ‰), Sph1 (4.7–7.4 ‰), Sph2 (3.9–8.7 ‰), Py2 (4.4–9.3 ‰) and Cp2 (5.0–6.8 ‰) indicate a sulphur source from thermochemical reduction of coeval seawater sulphate. Widely developed dissolved textures (caverns and breccias) with massive sulphide infillings and deformed host rock remnants suggest that replacement of host dolostones by ore fluids was volumetrically significant and the ore formed nearly simultaneously with the cavities. The Tianbaoshan deposit is a typical MVT deposit, which resulted from mixing of a H2S-rich fluid and a metal-rich fluid, with thermochemical sulphate reduction occurring before ore precipitation rather than during ore precipitation.

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