University of Oulu

Ore mineralogy, geochemistry, and formation of the sediment-hosted sea floor massive sulfide deposits at Escanaba Trough, NE Pacific, with emphasis on the transport and deposition of gold

Saved in:
Author: Törmänen, Tuomo1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Geology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 15.3 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: 2005
Publish Date: 2004-01-21
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Auditorium GO101, Linnanmaa, on January 21st, 2005, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Doctor Kari Kojonen
Doctor Oskar Thalhammer


Recent sea floor sulfide deposits form when seawater, heated within the oceanic crust, discharges to the sea floor. Upon mixing with cold seawater, sulfide-forming elements such as sulfur, iron, copper, and zinc are precipitated from the fluid.

Actively forming sea floor massive sulfide deposits are found from different lithologic and tectonic environments varying from mid-ocean ridges to back-arc spreading centers. At a few localities, sulfide deposits are associated with turbiditic sediments that cover the axial valley of the spreading center. The southern part (Escanaba Trough) of the Gorda Ridge (NE Pacific) is one such example. At Escanaba Trough, massive sulfide deposits are associated with small sediment hills, which were uplifted by the intrusion of sills and laccoliths within the sediments. Hydrothermal deposits are dominated by pyrrhotite-rich massive sulfides, with subordinate amounts of sulfate-rich precipitates and polymetallic sulfides. Compared to deposits hosted by volcanites, Escanaba Trough sulfides contain relatively low amounts of copper and zinc. However, the average gold concentration is relatively high for a sediment-hosted deposit, and is comparable with other, Au-enriched, sea floor sulfide deposits.

Despite the relatively high Au concentration in many volcanic-hosted sea floor sulfide deposits, discrete Au grains are rare. They occur mostly with sphalerite, pyrite, chalcopyrite and tetrahedrite-tennantite. Sixteen of the pyrrhotite-rich samples from Escanaba Trough were found to contain visible Au grains. They occur mostly with native Bi and various BiTe phases, and to lesser degree, with Fe-Co sulfarsenides.

Transport of Au in sea floor hydrothermal systems is attributed to the presence of Au(HS)2- complex, which is destabilized when the fluid mixes with seawater. Hydrothermal fluids are generally undersaturated with respect to Au complexes and additional mechanisms, such as remobilizing earlier precipitated Au is required to explain the high Au concentrations encountered in many deposits. At Escanaba Trough the mechanism is attributed to early precipitation of Bi as melt droplets, at temperatures greater its melting temperature, as liquid Bi is capable of collecting Au even from an undersaturated fluid. Upon cooling Au is exsolved from the Bi host as native Au or maldonite (Au2Bi).

see all

Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-7626-4
ISBN Print: 951-42-7625-6
Issue: 429
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2004. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.