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Late Devonian–Mississippian(?) Zn-Pb(-Ag-Au-Ba-F) deposits and related aluminous alteration zones in the Nome Complex, Seward Peninsula, Alaska

January 22, 2014

Stratabound base-metal sulfide deposits and occurrences are present in metasedimentary rocks of the Neoproterozoic and Paleozoic Nome Complex on south-central Seward Peninsula, Alaska. Stratabound and locally stratiform deposits including Aurora Creek (Zn-Au-Ba-F), Wheeler North (Pb-Zn-Ag-Au-F), and Nelson (Zn-Pb- Cu-Ag), consist of lenses typically 0.5–2.0 m thick containing disseminated to semimassive sulfides. Host strata of the Aurora Creek and Wheeler North deposits are variably calcareous and graphitic siliciclastic metasedimentary rocks of Middle Devonian or younger age based on detrital zircon geochronology; the Nelson deposit is within Ordovician–Devonian marble (Till et al., this volume, Chapter 4). Deformed veins such as Quarry (Zn-Pb-Ag-Ba-F) and Galena (Pb-Zn-Ag-F) occur in a unit composed mainly of marble and schist; fossil and detrital zircon data indicate that this unit contains rocks of Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian age. None of these Zn- and Pbrich deposits or occurrences has spatially associated metavolcanic or intrusive rocks. All were deformed and metamorphosed to blueschist facies and then retrograded to greenschist facies during the Jurassic and Early Cretaceous Brookian orogeny. Disseminated Cu-rich deposits including Copper King (Cu-Bi-Sb-Pb-Ag-Au) and Wheeler South (Cu-Ag-Au) occur in silicified carbonate rocks and have textures that indicate a pre- to syn-metamorphic origin.

The Zn- and Pb-rich sulfide deposits and occurrences consist mainly of pyrite, sphalerite, and/or galena in a gangue of quartz and carbonate. Minor minerals include arsenopyrite, chalcopyrite, magnetite, pyrrhotite, tetrahedrite, barite, fluorite, and chlorite; gold and electrum are trace to minor constituents locally. Sphalerite is uniformly unzoned and commonly aligned in the dominant foliation. These textures, together with the presence of folded layers of barite at Aurora Creek and folded sulfi de layers at Wheeler North, indicate that mineralization in the stratabound deposits predated deformation and metamorphism. Electron microprobe (EMP) analyses of the carbonate gangue show three major compositions comprising siderite, ankerite, and lesser dolomite. The Cu-rich deposits differ in containing chalcopyrite and bornite in a quartzose matrix.

Altered wall rocks surrounding the Zn- and Pb-rich deposits and occurrences have aluminous assemblages composed of muscovite + chloritoid + siderite + chlorite + quartz ± tourmaline ± ilmenite ± apatite ± monazite. Muscovite within these assemblages and in sulfide-rich samples is phengitic and locally enriched in barium; chloritoid at Aurora Creek is enriched in zinc. Minor minerals including pyrite, sphalerite, galena, chalcopyrite, barite, and hyalophane occur as fine-grained disseminations. These altered rocks vary from small lenses a few meters thick to large zones tens of meters in thickness that extend along strike, discontinuously, for 4 km or more. Whole-rock geochemical analyses of the altered rocks from deposit-proximal and deposit-distal settings reveal generally lower SiO2/Al2O3 ratios and higher Fe2O3 T/MgO ratios compared to those of unaltered clastic metasedimentary rocks of the Nome Complex and of average shale or graywacke. The deposit-proximal samples are also characterized by anomalously high Zn, Pb, Hg, and Sb, relative to the unaltered metasediments. These data, together with mass change calculations, suggest that the aluminous rocks formed as replacements of permeable graywacke in semi-conformable alteration zones, beneath the seafloor contemporaneously with Zn-and/or Pb-rich sulfide mineralization.

Exposures of all three stratabound Zn-Pb deposits show evidence of deformation and recrystallization that occurred in a largely brittle deformational regime. This evidence includes small faults and veins that cut foliation and localized zones of breccia. Sulfide minerals, fluorite, quartz, chlorite, and carbonate minerals crystallized within these structures, which probably formed during Cretaceous deformation of the Nome Complex.

Previous studies of the Zn-Pb(-Ag-Au-Ba-F) deposits and occurrences have invoked models of epigenetic veins, volcanogenic massive sulfides (VMS), or carbonate- replacement deposits (CRD). In contrast, our field and laboratory data (including sulfur isotopes; Shanks et al., this volume) suggest that these Zn- and/or Pb-rich deposits represent different levels of sediment-hosted, seafloor-hydrothermal systems, with stratabound and locally stratiform deposits such as Aurora Creek and Wheeler North having formed on the seafloor and/or in the shallow subsurface like many sedimentary-exhalative (SEDEX) deposits worldwide. The deformed veins such as Quarry and Galena are interpreted to have formed deep in the subsurface, possibly as feeders to overlying SEDEX deposits such as Aurora Creek. Formation of all of the Zn- and Pb-rich deposits and occurrences took place during episodic rifting of the continental margin between the Ordovician and Mississippian(?). Regional relationships are consistent with at least some of the deposits having formed in Late Devonian–Mississippian(?) time.

Publication Year 2014
Title Late Devonian–Mississippian(?) Zn-Pb(-Ag-Au-Ba-F) deposits and related aluminous alteration zones in the Nome Complex, Seward Peninsula, Alaska
DOI 10.1130/2014.2506(06)
Authors John F. Slack, Alison Till, Harvey E. Belkin, Wayne C. Shanks
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title GSA Special Papers
Index ID 70217581
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geology Minerals