Abstract

The Wilga and Currawong massive sulfide deposits at Benambra are hosted by a strongly deformed, Upper Silurian rhyolite-dacite-andesite-basalt-sediment succession, dominated by silicic volcanics and sedimentary rocks. This host succession developed in an ensialic back-arc or intra-arc basin of limited extensional origin on the active Gondwana continental margin. Strong deformation is related to compressional and transcurrent crustal movements during closing of the depositional basin at the end of the Silurian and to subsequent steep faulting.The massive sulfide deposits are essentially synvolcanic because (1) they have the same three generations of tectonic structures and the same intensity of deformation as their host rocks, suggesting that the ores predate the earliest compressional deformation, (2) the ores are constrained to a Late Silurian age similar to their host rocks because both the host rocks and this earliest deformation are Late Silurian in age, (3) there is a tight stratigraphic control on the location of the massive sulfides, and (4) the stratigraphy, depositional setting, and alteration are similar to many other less-deformed volcanic-associated massive sulfide districts.Deformation and alteration inhibit detailed stratigraphic correlation and modify rock textures, but do not destroy facies relationships, which allow sedimentological and volcanological interpretation. Sedimentary facies associations indicate that mineralization occurred in the basin center after fault-controlled subsidence from a mixed subaerial and subaqueous environment with active rhyolitic volcanism, through a marine shelf environment with mixed limestone-volcaniclastic sedimentation, to a moderate- to deep-water environment with mudstone and turbidite sedimentation and rhyolitic to basaltic volcanism.Juvenile elastic and nonelastic volcanic rocks are closely associated, subequal in volume, and comprise 50 to 70 percent of the volcano-sedimentary sequence. Evaluation of fragmentation and emplacement processes indicates that the juvenile volcaniclastics are mainly in situ, resedimented and intrusive hyaloclastites, rather than pyroelastics. Classification of primary contact relationships of the volcanics into passive, slightly disruptive and highly disruptive types, and the internal facies organization of the volcanic units, indicate that the volcanics form extrusive domes, extrusive tabular flows, partially emergent cryptodomes and sills, and entirely intrusive sills. Shallow sills and cryptodomes emplaced into wet subsea-floor sediments are texturally similar to, but more abundant than, lavas in the environment of mineralization. These shallow intrusions are distinguished by disruptive upper contacts including sediment-veined and sediment-matrix hyaloclastite. Their recognition is critical because the mineralized stratigraphic interval can only be correlated using volcanics and sediments emplaced on the sea floor. Based on extrusive units, the massive sulfides occur within 100 m above the last major extrusive rhyolites and within 50 m below the first major basalt lava.Integrating the tectonic, structural, sedimentological, and volcanological data shows that the massive sulfides formed in siltstone, in the proximal (near-vent) facies association of a low profile, mainly nonexplosive, moderate to deep-water submarine volcano composed of turbiditic sediments interleaved with numerous rhyolitic to basaltic sills, lavas, and associated hyaloclastites. The ores can be related in space and time to the advanced stage of extension and subsidence in a continental margin incipient rift, when relatively deep-marine conditions were attained, generation of voluminous rhyolitic crustal melts waned, and basaltic magma started to penetrate up deep extensional faults to the sea floor. The spatial association of the last rhyolite extrusions, the massive sulfides, and the first basalt extrusions, suggests that these rocks are genetically related and that all were fed via the same extensional fault system. This setting of silicic volcanic-associated massive sulfides at Benambra provides a model for the many deposits related to mainly nonexplosive volcanism and an alternative to the recently popular submarine pyroclastic caldera model.

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