The stratiform Century Zn-Pb deposit and the discordant Zn-Pb lode deposits of the Burketown mineral field, northern Australia, host ore and gangue minerals with primary fluid inclusions that have not been affected by the Isan orogeny, thus providing a unique opportunity to investigate the nature of the ore-forming brines. All of the deposits are hosted in shales and siltstones belonging to the Isa superbasin and comprise sphalerite, pyrite, carbonate, quartz, galena, minor chalcopyrite, and minor illite. According to Pb model ages, the main ore stage of mineralization at Century formed at 1575 Ma, some 20 m.y. after deposition of the host shale sequence. Microthermometry on undeformed, primary fluid inclusions hosted in porous sphalerite shows that the Zn at Century was transported to the deposit by a homogeneous, Ca2+- and Na+-bearing brine with a salinity of 21.6 wt percent NaCl equiv. δDfluid of the fluid inclusion water ranges from −89 to −83 per mil, consistent with a basinal brine that evolved from meteoric water. Fluid inclusion homogenization temperatures range between 74° and 125°C, which are lower than the 120° to 160°C range calculated from vitrinite reflectance and illite crystallinity data from the deposit. This discrepancy indicates that mineralization likely formed at 50 to 85 Mpa, corresponding to a depth of 1,900 to 3,100 m.

Transgressive galena-sphalerite veins that cut stratiform mineralization at Century and breccia-filled quartz-dolomite-sphalerite-galena veins in the discordant Zn-Pb lodes have Pb model ages between 1575 and 1485 Ma. Raman spectroscopy and microthermometry reveal that the primary fluid inclusions in these veins contain Ca2+, Na+, but they have lower salinities between 23 and 10 wt percent NaCl equiv and higher δDfluid values ranging from −89 to −61 per mil than fluid inclusions in porous sphalerite from Century. Fluid inclusion water from sphalerite in one of the lode deposits has δ18Ofluid values of 1.6 and 2.4 per mil, indistinguishable from δ18Ofluid values between −0.3 to +7.4 per mil calculated from the isotopic composition of co-existing quartz, dolomite, and illite. The trend toward lower salinities and higher δDfluid values relative to the earlier mineralizing fluids is attributed to mixing between the fluid that formed Century and a seawater-derived fluid from a different source. Based on seismic data from the Lawn Hill platform and paragenetic and geochemical results from the Leichhardt River fault trough to the south, diagenetic aquifers in the underlying Calvert superbasin appear to have been the most likely sources for the fluids that formed Century and the discordant lode deposits.

Paragenetically late sphalerite and calcite cut sphalerite, quartz, and dolomite in the lode deposits and contain Na+-dominated fluid inclusions with much lower salinities than their older counterparts. The isotopic composition of calcite also indicates δ18Ofluid from 3.3 to 10.7 per mil, which is larger than the range obtained from synmineralization minerals, supporting the idea that a unique fluid source was involved. The absolute timing of this event is unclear, but a plethora of Pb model, K-Ar, and 40Ar/39Ar ages between 1440 and 1300 Ma indicate that a significant volume of fluid was mobilized at this time. The deposition of the Roper superbasin from ca. 1492 ± 4 Ma suggests that these late veins formed from fluids that may have been derived from aquifers in overlying sediments of the Roper superbasin.

Clear, buck, and drusy quartz in veins unrelated to any form of Pb-Zn mineralization record the last major fluid event in the Burketown mineral field and form distinct outcrops and ridges in the district. Fluid inclusions in these veins indicate formation from a low-salinity, 300° ± 80°C fluid. Temperatures approaching 300°C recorded in organic matter adjacent to faults and at sequence boundaries correspond to K-Ar ages spanning 1300 to 1100 Ma, which coincides with regional hydrothermal activity in the northern Lawn Hill platform and the emplacement of the Lakeview Dolerite at the time of assemblage of the Rodinia supercontinent.

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