Abstract

Water column redox conditions, degree of restriction of the depositional basin, and other paleoenvironmental parameters have been determined for the Mississippian Kuna Formation of northwestern Alaska from stratigraphic profiles of Mo, Fe/Al, and S isotopes in pyrite, C isotopes in organic matter, and N isotopes in bulk rock. This unit is important because it hosts the Red Dog and Anarraaq Zn-Pb-Ag ± barite deposits, which together constitute one of the largest zinc resources in the world. The isotopic and chemical proxies record a deep basin environment that became isolated from the open ocean, became increasingly reducing, and ultimately became euxinic. The basin was ventilated briefly and then became isolated again just prior to its demise as a discrete depocenter with the transition to the overlying Siksikpuk Formation. Ventilation corresponded approximately to the initiation of bedded barite deposition in the district, whereas the demise of the basin corresponded approximately to the formation of the massive sulfide deposits. The changes in basin circulation during deposition of the upper Kuna Formation may have had multiple immediate causes, but the underlying driver was probably extensional tectonic activity that also facilitated fluid flow beneath the basin floor. Although the formation of sediment-hosted sulfide deposits is generally favored by highly reducing conditions, the Zn-Pb deposits of the Red Dog district are not found in the major euxinic facies of the Kuna basin, nor did they form during the main period of euxinia. Rather, the deposits occur where strata were permeable to migrating fluids and where excess H2S was available beyond what was produced in situ by decomposition of local sedimentary organic matter. The known deposits formed mainly by replacement of calcareous strata that gained H2S from nearby highly carbonaceous beds (Anarraaq deposit) or by fracturing and vein formation in strata that produced excess H2S by reductive dissolution of preexisting barite (Red Dog deposits).

You do not currently have access to this article.