Abstract

East Diamante is a submarine volcano in the southern Mariana arc that is host to a complex caldera ~5 × 10 km (elongated ENE-WSW) that is breached along its northern and southwestern sectors. A large field of barite-sulfide mounds was discovered in June 2009 and revisited in July 2010 with the R/V Natsushima, using the ROV Hyper-Dolphin. The mound field occurs on the northeast flank of a cluster of resurgent dacite domes in the central caldera, near an active black smoker vent field. A 40Ar/39Ar age of 20,000 ± 4000 years was obtained from a dacite sample. The mound field is aligned along a series of fractures and extends for more than 180 m east-west and >120 m north-south. Individual mounds are typically 1 to 3 m tall and 0.5 to 2 m wide, with lengths from about 3 to 8 m. The mounds are dominated by barite + sphalerite layers with the margins of each layer composed of barite with disseminated sulfides. Rare, inactive spires and chimneys sit atop some mounds and also occur as clusters away from the mounds. Iron and Mn oxides are currently forming small (<1-m diam, ~0.5-m tall) knolls on the top surface of some of the barite-sulfide mounds and may also drape their flanks. Both diffusely and focused fluids emanate from the small oxide knolls. Radiometric ages of the layered barite-sulfide mounds and chimneys vary from ~3,920 to 3,350 years. One layer, from an outcrop of 10- to 100-cm-thick Cu-rich layers, is notably younger with an age of 2,180 years. The Fe-Mn oxides were <5 years old at the time of collection in 2009.

Most mound, chimney, and layered outcrop samples are dominated by barite, silica, and sphalerite; other sulfides, in decreasing order of abundance, are galena, chalcopyrite, and rare pyrite. Anglesite, cerussite, and unidentified Pb oxychloride and Pb phosphate minerals occur as late-stage interstitial phases. The samples contain high Zn (up to 23 wt %), Pb (to 16 wt %), Ag (to 487 ppm), and Au (to 19 ppm) contents. Some layered outcrop samples are dominated by chalcopyrite resulting in ≤4.78 wt % Cu in a bulk sample (28 wt % for a single lens), with a mean of 0.28 wt % for other samples. Other significant metal enrichments are Sb (to 1,320 ppm), Cd (to 1,150 ppm), and Hg (to 55 ppm).

The East Diamante mound field has a unique set of characteristics compared to other hydrothermal sites in the Mariana arc and elsewhere. The geochemical differences may predominantly reflect the distribution of fractures and faults and consequently the rock/water ratio, temperature of the fluid in the upper parts of the circulation system, and extensive and prolonged mixing with seawater. The location of mineralization is controlled by fractures. Following resurgent doming within the caldera, mineralization resulted from focused flow along small segments of linear fractures rather than from a point source, typical of hydrothermal chimney fields. Based on the mineral assemblage, the maximum fluid temperatures were ~260°C, near the boiling point for the water depths of the mound field (367–406 m). Lateral fluid flow within the mounds precipitated interstitial sphalerite, silica, and Pb minerals within a network of barite with disseminated sulfides; silica was the final phase to precipitate. The current low-temperature precipitation of Fe and Mn oxides and silica may represent rejuvenation of the system.

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