Abstract

Seafloor hydrothermal systems precipitate Cu, Zn, and Fe sulfides at and below black smoker vents on the seafloor; as a result, the metal concentrations in the vent fluids are minimum values. We sampled deep, unboiled liquids from the Reykjanes geothermal reservoir, Iceland, and measured the metal concentrations. This active, seawater-dominated system, situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, is the subaerial equivalent to mid-ocean-ridge hydro thermal systems. The liquids, collected at 1350–1500 m depth and 284–295 °C, contain 154–2431 μM Fe (9–140 ppm), 207–261 μM Cu (14–17 ppm), 79–393 μM Zn (5–27 ppm), 0.6–1.4 μM Pb (120–290 ppb), 6–31 nM Au (1–6 ppb), and 250–960 nM Ag (28–107 ppb). Fluids discharged at surface from the same wells have orders of magnitude lower metal concentrations due to precipitation caused by boiling and vapor loss during depressurization. The concentrations of Cu, Zn, and Pb in the high-temperature reservoir liquids at Reykjanes are similar to those in the highest-temperature black smoker discharges, whereas Au and Ag concentrations are one to two orders of magnitude higher at Reykjanes; lower-temperature seafloor fluids have lower metal contents, suggesting subseafloor deposition before discharge. The Reykjanes heat flux of 130 MW requires a liquid flux of ~100 kg/s; over 104 yr, the minimum life of the system, 0.5 Mt each of Cu and Zn may have precipitated at depth.

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