Abstract

Volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) Zn-Pb-Cu-Ag-Au deposits of the Bonnifield mining district formed during Late Devonian-Early Mississippian magmatism along the western edge of Laurentia. The largest deposits, Dry Creek and WTF, have a combined resource of 5.7 million tonnes at 10% Zn, 4% Pb, 0.3% Cu, 300 grams per tonne (g/t) Ag, and 1.6 g/t Au. These polymetallic deposits are hosted in high field strength element (HFSE)- and rare-earth element (REE)-rich peralkaline (pantelleritic) metarhyolite, and interlayered pyritic argillite and mudstone of the Mystic Creek Member of the Totatlanika Schist Formation. Mystic Creek metarhyolite and alkali basalt (Chute Creek Member) constitute a bimodal pair that formed in an extensional environment. A synvolcanic peralkaline quartz porphyry containing veins of fluorite, sphalerite, pyrite, and quartz intrudes the central footwall at Dry Creek. The Anderson Mountain deposit, located ~32 km to the southwest, occurs within calc-alkaline felsic to intermediate-composition metavolcanic rocks and associated graphitic argillite of the Wood River assemblage. Felsic metavolcanic rocks there have only slightly elevated HFSEs and REEs. The association of abundant graphitic and siliceous argillite with the felsic volcanic rocks together with low Cu contents in the Bonnifield deposits suggests classification as a siliciclastic-felsic type of VMS deposit.

Bonnifield massive sulfides and host rocks were metamorphosed and deformed under greenschist-facies conditions in the Mesozoic. Primary depositional textures, generally uncommon, consist of framboids, framboidal aggregates, and spongy masses of pyrite. Sphalerite, the predominant base metal sulfide, encloses early pyrite framboids. Galena and chalcopyrite accompanied early pyrite formation but primarily formed late in the paragenetic sequence. Silver-rich tetrahedrite is a minor late phase at the Dry Creek deposit. Gold and Ag are present in low to moderate amounts in pyrite from all of the deposits; electrum inclusions occur in Dry Creek sphalerite. Contents and ratios of trace elements in graphitic argillite that serve as proxies for the redox state of the bottom waters in the basin indicate that Dry Creek mineralization took place in suboxic to periodically anoxic bottom waters. Trace element data show higher contents of Tl-Mn-As in pyrite from the Anderson Mountain deposit compared to the Dry Creek or WTF deposits and thus suggest that Anderson Mountain may have formed at lower temperatures or under slightly more oxidizing conditions.

No exact modern analogue for the tectonic setting of the Bonnifield VMS deposits is known, although the back-arc regions of the Okinawa Trough and Woodlark Basin satisfy the requirement for a submarine, extensional setting adjacent to a continental margin. Limited occurrences of peralkaline volcanic rocks occur in these two potential analogues, but the peralkalinity of those rocks is much less than that of the Mystic Creek Member metarhyolites in the Bonnifield district. The highly elevated trace element (e.g., Zr, Nb) contents of Mystic Creek metarhyolites suggest that a better analogue may be a submarine rifted continental margin. The calc-alkaline composition of the host rocks to the Anderson Mountain deposit suggests that mineralization there formed in a continental margin arc, outboard of the extended continental margin setting of the peralkaline-hosted Dry Creek and WTF deposits.

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