The Jinding deposit, located in the northern part of Lanping basin in southwest China, is the second largest Zn-Pb deposit in China and the third largest Mississippi Valley-type deposit identified globally. The deposit consists of several large tabular orebodies within the Jinding dome. Two stages of sulfide mineralization (sphalerite, galena, and pyrite) are identified, which are mainly hosted in the siliciclastic strata of Early Cretaceous and Paleocene age. The early sulfide minerals are mostly fine grained (<100 μm) and disseminated in the host rocks, whereas the late minerals are ty pically coarse grained (up to 1 mm in diameter) and colloform. It is estimated that about 3.17 × 106 m3 of reduced sulfur (H2S) was involved in the sulfide mineralization of the Jinding deposit, although its origin remains equivocal. Here, we investigate the biomarker signatures of organic matter and the mechanism of generation of the H2S. The organic matter in the Jinding deposit occurs mainly as petroleum filling fractures and cavities in the wall rocks and solid bitumen intergrown with sulfides or calcite. Abundant solid bitumen is also found on the surfaces of the carbonate rocks in the Sanhedong Formation as well as in the rock fractures associated with framboidal pyrite. The petrographic characteristics and maturity-related biomarker parameters show that the solid bitumen in the ores has higher thermal maturity than that in the Sanhedong Formation, suggesting that it was generated at different temperatures in the two settings. The source-related parameters suggest that the solid bitumen in the ores and Sanhedong Formation probably both originated in a mixed marine shale and carbonate environment and that the source rocks for the bitumen precursor were late Triassic marine strata.

The δ34S values, ranging from –30 to –10‰ for the fine-grained and disseminated sulfide minerals and from –24.50 to –16.27‰ for the solid bitumen in the early (main) mineralization stage, suggest that H2S was generated by microbial sulfate reduction. We propose that this occurred in the Triassic strata prior to or during migration of hydrocarbons to the Jinding dome to form a H2S-enriched paleo-oil reservoir. This hypothesis is supported by the similarity of the δ34S values (–27.62 to –17.38‰) of solid bitumen in the Sanhedong Formation (the source rocks) to that of bitumen in the ores. The late-ore sulfide, however, displays significantly higher δ34S values, ranging from –8 to 0‰. We propose that the H2S of this stage was mainly generated by thermochemical sulfate reduction as a result of the interaction between hydrocarbons, sulfate, and hydrothermal fluid. The hydrocarbons were oxidized into bitumen that has δ34S values from –7.38 to –4.61‰.

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