Abstract

All early students of the zinc and barite deposits of East Tennessee, noting the geographic coincidence of the principal mining area with complex late Paleozoic geologic structure, concluded that (1) the ore-bearing breccias were produced by Appalachian tectonic forces and that (2) mineralizing solutions gained access through fault-produced channelways.In 1931, Ulrich suggested that the breccias were produced by collapse and fragmentation resulting from solution of the carbonate rocks. This idea was promptly rejected by most geologists, and for the next 15 years nearly all papers on these deposits contained refutations of Ulrich's hypothesis and "proof" of the late Paleozoic tectonic origin of the breccias.Recognition by Odell in 1950 of a spatial association between thinning of the lime-stone zone of the Kingsport Formation and the presence of ore bodies, plus the observation that all identifiable blocks in the breccias were displaced downward as much as 30 to 50 feet, led him to suggest that foundering of the rocks over solution-thinned zones produced the breccias. Hydrothermal fluids, rather than ordinary ground water, were thought to be the dissolving agent.Kendall, in 1960, described a stratified "varved" matrix with detrital sphalerite grains in many breccias at Jefferson City, in which lamination is parallel to bedding of the host Kingsport Formation, indicating that both brecciation and mineralization occurred while the rocks were horizontal. Ruskell about 1960 pointed out the similarity between cross sections of southwest Wisconsin ore bodies and those of East Tennessee when the latter were rotated to a horizontal position. Detailed studies of the post-Knox unconformity led to recognition of a paleokarst topography of considerable relief developed on this surface. Regional stratigraphic studies of the Knox Group by Harris demonstrated the probability of pre-Middle Ordovician exposure of the Kingsport somewhere to the north or northwest, providing a recharge area for ground waters at that time.Detailed mapping of ore bodies, barren areas, and related structures by the mining-company geologists, plus application of the principles of ground-water hydrology and rock mechanics, has led to the theory, generally accepted in the district, of solution-collapse origin of the breccias, probably during Ordovician time.

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