The 2.67 Ga Hackett River volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposits located in the northeastern Slave province, Nunavut, Canada, are among the largest undeveloped massive sulfide resources in Canada and are silver rich compared to other such deposits of similar age, with Ag grades up to 3,000 g/t.
The deposits are hosted by the Ignerit Formation of the felsic to intermediate calc-alkaline Hackett River Group metavolcanic rocks that are part of the province-wide supracrustal Yellowknife Supergroup. One of the most economically significant of the Hackett River deposits is the Hackett River Main zone (Main zone), which consists of two parts: a stratigraphically lower chalcopyrite-rich stringer zone and an upper massive to semimassive polymetallic sulfide lens. The mineralization is subdivided into five types based on mineralogy, textures, and approximate stratigraphic position: (1) disseminated footwall sulfides, (2) copper-rich stringer sulfides, (3) pyrite-poor sphalerite-pyrrhotite-chalcopyrite mineralization at the top of the stringer zone, (4) mineralization in calc-silicate–altered calcareous tuff units, and (5) sphalerite-pyrite massive sulfide. In type 1 mineralization, disseminated pyrite, pyrrhotite, and sphalerite contain negligible Ag and in type 2, Bi-Ag-(Pb) sulfides, Ag-Bi-Se–enriched galena and chalcopyrite are the dominant Ag hosts. Within type 3, Ag-rich tetrahedrite (freibergite) and galena are the main Ag hosts. In type 4, Ag is hosted in disseminated electrum and freibergite, and within type 5 mineralization, freibergite hosts 99% of the Ag. Overall within the Main zone, Ag-rich freibergite contains 79.4% of the Ag, whereas chalcopyrite hosts 6.3% and galena contains 1.8%. Trace minerals such as electrum host the remainder of the Ag, and these have a limited spatial distribution.
Zone refining is the most important control on the distribution of Ag within the Main zone and the principal controls on Ag residence are mineralizing fluid temperature, deposit-scale relative redox conditions, sulfidation state, location of the mineralization relative to the hydrothermal conduit, and the ratio of Bi to Sb in the mineralizing fluid available for coupled substitution. Within the freibergite and chalcopyrite, Ag directly substitutes for Cu and replaces Pb in galena by coupled substitution with Bi and, to a lesser extent, Sb. Lower temperatures <ca. 250°C and more oxidizing conditions favored partitioning of Ag into freibergite and less oxidizing conditions favored galena as a host. At higher temperatures, >ca. 250°C, the most reducing conditions favored incorporation in Ag-Bi-rich galena (plus Se) and Bi-bearing sulfides or Ag-rich chalcopyrite under lesser reducing conditions.