Quartz precipitation and fluid inclusion characteristics in sub-seafloor hydrothermal systems associated with volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits


Results of a numerical modeling study of quartz dissolution and precipitation in a sub-seafloor hydrothermal system have been used to predict where in the system quartz could be deposited and potentially trap fluid inclusions. The spatial distribution of zones of quartz dissolution and precipitation is complex, owing to the fact that quartz solubility depends on many inter-related factors, including temperature, fluid salinity and fluid immiscibility, and is further complicated by the fact that quartz exhibits both prograde and retrograde solubility behavior, depending on the fluid temperature and salinity. Using the PVTX properties of H2O-NaCl, the petrographic and microthermometric properties of fluid inclusions trapped at various locations within the hydrothermal system have been predicted. Vapor-rich inclusions are trapped as a result of the retrograde temperature-dependence of quartz solubility as the convecting fluid is heated in the vicinity of the magmatic heat source. Coexisting liquid-rich and vapor-rich inclusions are also trapped in this region when quartz precipitates as a result of fluid immiscibility that lowers the overall bulk quartz solubility in the system. Fluid inclusions trapped in the shallow subsurface near the seafloor vents and in the underlying stockwork are liquid-rich with homogenization temperatures of 200–400°C and salinities close to that of seawater. Volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposits represent the uplifted and partially eroded remnants of fossil submarine hydrothermal systems, and the relationship between fluid-inclusion properties and location within the hydrothermal system described here can be used in exploration for VMS deposits to infer the direction towards potential massive sulfide ore.

seafloor hydrothermal systems, volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits, silica, quartz veins, fluid inclusions