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Sulfur- and oxygen-isotopes in sediment-hosted stratiform barite deposits

January 1, 2009

Sulfur- and oxygen-isotope analyses have been obtained for sediment-hosted stratiform barite deposits in Alaska, Nevada, Mexico, and China to examine the environment of formation of this deposit type. The barite is contained in sedimentary sequences as old as Late Neoproterozoic and as young as Mississippian. If previously published data for other localities are considered, sulfur- and oxygen-isotope data are now available for deposits spanning a host-rock age range of Late Neoproterozoic to Triassic. On a ??34S versus ??18O diagram, many deposits show linear or concave-upward trends that project down toward the isotopic composition of seawater sulfate. The trends suggest that barite formed from seawater sulfate that had been isotopically modified to varying degrees. The ??34S versus ??18O patterns resemble patterns that have been observed in the modern oceans in pore water sulfate and water column sulfate in some anoxic basins. However, the closest isotopic analog is barite mineralization that occurs at fluid seeps on modern continental margins. Thus the data favor genetic models for the deposits in which barium was delivered by seafloor seeps over models in which barium was delivered by sedimentation of pelagic organisms. The isotopic variations within the deposits appear to reflect bacterial sulfate reduction operating at different rates and possibly with different electron donors, oxygen isotope exchange between reduction intermediates and H2O, and sulfate availability. Because they are isotopically heterogeneous, sediment-hosted stratiform barite deposits are of limited value in reconstructing the isotopic composition of ancient seawater sulfate.