Abstract

Considerable controversy exists as to the timing of the important Mississippian carbonate-hosted Irish-type Zn + Pb ± Ba ± Ag deposits. The Silvermines deposits have been defined as an end member of this style in that they have been interpreted to display textures indicative of sea-floor deposition. One of the strongest arguments in favor of this interpretation was the report of a hydrothermal vent field, including pyritic chimneys in the Ballynoe open-pit barite deposit. This paper adds to that body of evidence by describing a hydrothermal vent fauna from the same vent field, consisting of a delicately pyritized worm tube hosted by massive pyrite and hematized filaments of apparent microbial origin. The worm tube is remarkably similar to fossil worm tubes from modern and ancient volcanic-hosted massive sulfide deposits, and the filamentous microfossils have similarities to modern Fe-oxidizing bacteria. We have found no correlation between the worm tube and normal Mississippian fossils such as crinoids, whose replacement by pyrite in the immediately underlying Ballynoe footwall destroys original morphology. The sulfur isotope composition of the worm tube and host pyrite is essentially identical to that of the vent field pyrite and the main sulfide ore stage of Silvermines sulfides, all having a mean value about –20 per mil, indicating an open-system bacteriogenic sulfide source. These discoveries provide additional evidence for the exhalative nature of parts of the Silvermines orebodies, and imply that mineralization had begun in the Irish ore field by the late Tournaisian (~352 Ma).

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