Oxygen, hydrogen, sulfur, and carbon isotopes have been analyzed in the Pea Ridge magnetite-apatite deposit, the largest historic producer among the known iron deposits in the southeast Missouri portion of the 1.5 to 1.3 Ga eastern granite-rhyolite province. The data were collected to investigate the sources of ore fluids, conditions of ore formation, and provenance of sulfur, and to improve the general understanding of the copper, gold, and rare earth element potential of iron deposits regionally. The δ18O values of Pea Ridge magnetite are 1.9 to 4.0‰, consistent with a model in which some magnetite crystallized from a melt and other magnetite—perhaps the majority—precipitated from an aqueous fluid of magmatic origin. The δ18O values of quartz, apatite, actinolite, K-feldspar, sulfates, and calcite are significantly higher, enough so as to indicate growth or equilibration under cooler conditions than magnetite and/or in the presence of a fluid that was not entirely magmatic. A variety of observations, including stable isotope observations, implicate a second fluid that may ultimately have been meteoric in origin and may have been modified by isotopic exchange with rocks or by evaporation during storage in lakes.
Sulfur isotope analyses of sulfides from Pea Ridge and seven other mineral deposits in the region reveal two distinct populations that average 3 and 13‰. Two sulfur sources are implied. One was probably igneous melts or rocks belonging to the mafic- to intermediate-composition volcanic suite that is present at or near most of the iron deposits; the other was either melts or volcanic rocks that had degassed very extensively, or else volcanic lakes that had trapped rising magmatic gases. The higher δ34S values correspond to deposits or prospects where copper is noteworthy—the Central Dome portion of the Boss deposit, the Bourbon deposit, and the Vilander prospective area. The correspondence suggests that (1) sulfur either limited the deposition of copper or was cotransported with copper, and (2) sulfur isotope analysis may be useful in evaluating southeast Missouri iron deposits for copper and possibly for gold.