Abstract

A large collection of hydrothermal sulphides from the Broken Spur hydrothermal vent site, including representative samples of mound sulphide materials, has been characterized using optical mineralogy and sulphur isotope analysis. Young mound sulphides from Broken Spur have a pyrrhotite-dominated mineralogy unusual for bare ridge vent systems. However, pyrrhotite is metastable and is ultimately converted to iron disulphides. Mature sulphides are indurated, recrystallized and contain abundant quartz. Sulphide mound materials are developed by three major processes: (i) coalescing of chimney structures; (ii) accumulation of talus from mass wasting and (iii) precipitation and growth in response to hydrothermal flow. Progressive maturation of mound materials is by modification of primary textures, development of mineralogical zoning and replacement of metastable phases. Sulphur isotope analysis of 35 mineral separates returned δ34S values of – 0.5 to +3.2‰. These values are similar to those previously measured for Broken Spur and Snakepit, but are distinctly 32S enriched compared to the TAG active mound and some Pacific sites. Seawater entrainment and sulphate reduction within the subsurface feeder zone below Broken Spur mounds do not appear to be important processes at Broken Spur, in contrast to the TAG active mound.

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