The ~3240 Ma Panorama volcanic-hosted massive sulfide (VHMS) district is unusual for its high degree of exposure and low degree of postdepositional modification. In addition to typical seafloor VHMS deposits, this district contains greisen- and vein-hosted Mo-Cu-Zn-Sn mineral occurrences that are contemporaneous with VHMS orebodies and are hosted by the Strelley granite complex, which also drove VHMS circulation. Hence the Panorama district is a natural laboratory to investigate the role of magmatic-hydrothermal fluids in VHMS hydrothermal systems.
Regional and proximal high-temperature alteration zones in volcanic rocks underlying the VHMS deposits are dominated by chlorite-quartz ± albite assemblages, with lesser low-temperature sericite-quartz ± K-feldspar assemblages. These assemblages are typical of VHMS hydrothermal systems. In contrast, the alteration assemblages associated with granite-hosted greisens and veins include quartz-topaz-muscovite-fluorite and quartz-muscovite (sericite)-chlorite-ankerite. These vein systems generally do not extend into the overlying volcanic pile.
Fluid inclusion and stable isotope studies suggest that the greisens were produced by high-temperature (~590°C), high-salinity (38–56 wt % NaCl equiv) fluids with high densities (>1.3 g/cm3) and high δ18O (9.3 ± 0.6‰). These fluids are compatible with the measured characteristics of magmatic fluids evolved from the Strelley granite complex. In contrast, fluids in the volcanic pile (including the VHMS ore-forming fluids) were of lower temperature (90°–270°C), lower salinity (5.0–11.2 wt % NaCl equiv), with lower densities (0.88–1.01 g/cm3) and lower δ18O (−0.8 ± 2.6‰). These fluids are compatible with evolved Paleoarchean seawater. Fluids that formed the quartz-chalcopyrite-sphalerite-cassiterite veins, which are present within the granite complex near the contact with the volcanic pile, were intermediate in temperature and isotopic composition between the greisen and volcanic pile fluids (T = 240°–315°C; δ18O = 4.3 ± 1.5‰) and are interpreted to indicate mixing between the two end-member fluids.
Evidence of mixing between evolved seawater and magmatic-hydrothermal fluid within the granite complex, together with the lack of evidence for a magmatic component in fluids from the volcanic pile, suggest partitioning of magmatic-hydrothermal from evolved seawater hydrothermal systems in the Panorama VHMS system. This separation is interpreted to result from either the swamping of a relatively small magmatic-hydro-thermal system by evolved seawater or density contrasts precluding movement of magmatic-hydrothermal fluids into the volcanic pile.
Variability in the salinity of fluids in the volcanic pile, combined with evidence for mixing of low- and high-salinity fluids in the massive sulfide lens, is interpreted to indicate that phase separation occurred within the Panorama hydrothermal system. Although we consider this phase separation to have most likely occurred at depth within the system, as has been documented in modern VHMS systems, the data do not allow the location of the inferred phase separation to be determined.