The polymetamorphosed Swartberg Cu-Pb-Zn-Ag deposit in the Namaqua Metamorphic Province of South Africa is a major metal producer in the region, yet its genesis remains poorly understood. The deposit comprises several stratiform to stratabound units, namely the Lower Orebody and Dark Quartzite, the overlying Barite Unit, and the Upper Orebody, all of which are folded by an F2 isoclinal syncline and refolded by an open F3 synform. A discordant Garnet Quartzite unit surrounds the Upper Orebody in the F2 hinge, where it overprints the Lower Orebody and Barite Unit. The Lower Orebody comprises sulfidic, pelitic lenses with fine-grained pyrite, sphalerite, galena, and lesser pyrrhotite, hosted by sulfide-poor but magnetite- and barite-bearing siliceous rock. The overlying Barite Unit is poorly mineralized and grades from massive magnetite-barite close to the F2 hinge to distal laminated baritic schist and quartzite. The Dark Quartzite is the stratigraphic equivalent of the Lower Orebody and Barite Unit but comprises siliceous quartzite and schist, with lenses of conglomerate and minor Fe-Mn-Zn phases. The Upper Orebody displays rapid zonations from massive magnetite-rich iron formation in the F2 hinge, rich in coarse galena, pyrrhotite, and chalcopyrite, to sulfide-poor, magnetite-bearing schist and quartzite. The Garnet Quartzite is dominated by quartz and almandine garnet and mineralized with pyrite and chalcopyrite. Geochemical discriminant plots show that the Lower Orebody has a significant detrital component, whereas the Upper Orebody and Barite Unit are strongly zoned, with the greatest chemogenic component close to the F2 hinge. This corresponds to a deposit-scale metal zonation from the Cu-rich F2 hinge to more Pb- and then Zn-dominated areas. Mineral assemblages and paleoredox proxies suggest generally oxic conditions, with a more reduced signature close to the hinge and in the sulfidic Lower Orebody lenses.
The Lower Orebody is interpreted as a mixed chemogenic-pelitic unit, with sulfides deposited on or near the seafloor during stage 1 hydrothermal activity. The sulfidic lenses formed from fine mud and clay deposited in quiet seafloor depressions, in which warm, dense, reducing, Pb-Zn-Ba–rich stage 1 brines accumulated, while the siliceous portions formed from higher-energy clastic sediments on aerated seafloor highs. The Barite Unit forms a baritic cap to the Lower Orebody, while the Dark Quartzite is their shallower-water equivalent. Thereafter, clastic sediment with lesser hydrothermal input was deposited during stage 2a exhalations, forming the poorly mineralized portions of the Upper Orebody. During stage 2b hydrothermal activity, hot Cu-Fe–rich fluids invaded part of the Upper Orebody, creating the highly chemogenic protolith to the well-mineralized, magnetite-rich portion. Associated hydrothermal alteration in a discordant subseafloor feeder zone created the Garnet Quartzite protolith. The F2 hinge thus corresponds closely to the original vent zone.
Swartberg therefore resembles a deformed and metamorphosed Selwyn-type sedimentary exhalative deposit, with both proximal- (Upper Orebody, Garnet Quartzite) and distal-style (Lower Orebody) mineralization. The close association of these styles suggests that differences in the mineralizing fluids and depositional environment, rather than proximity to a vent, determine the deposit style.