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Volcanological and environmental controls on the Snowdon mineralization, North Wales, UK: a failed volcanogenic massive sulfide system in the Avalon Zone of the British Caledonides

Lusty, Paul A.J.; Lacinska, Alicja M.; Millar, Ian L.; Barrie, Craig D.; Boyce, Adrian J.. 2017 Volcanological and environmental controls on the Snowdon mineralization, North Wales, UK: a failed volcanogenic massive sulfide system in the Avalon Zone of the British Caledonides. Ore Geology Reviews, 89. 557-586. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oregeorev.2017.06.031

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Abstract/Summary

The Snowdon caldera of North Wales is host to base metal sulfide-bearing veins and stockworks, mineralized breccias, disseminated sulfides, and localized zones of semi-massive to massive sulfide, with subordinate magnetite-rich veins. The late Ordovician host volcanic sequence accumulated in a shallow marine, back-arc environment in the Welsh Basin, which forms part of the Avalon Zone of the British and Irish Caledonides. New field evidence, sulfur isotopes, and U-Pb dating indicate that the Snowdon mineralization is genetically and temporally related to Late Ordovician magmatism and caldera formation. It is interpreted to represent volcanogenic pipe-style sulfide mineralization, resulting from focused hydrothermal fluids moving along caldera-related faults and simultaneous dispersal of fluids through the volcaniclastic pile. Sulfur isotope data suggest that, whilst a limited contribution of magmatic S cannot be ruled out, thermochemical reduction of contemporaneous Ordovician seawater sulfate was the dominant mechanism for sulfide production in the Snowdon system, resulting in a mean value of about 12‰ in both the host volcanic strata and the mineralized veins. Despite the tectonic setting being prospective for VMS deposits, strata-bound sulfide accumulations are absent in the caldera. This is attributed to the shallow water depths, which promoted boiling and the formation of sub-seafloor vein-type mineralization. Furthermore, the tectonic instability of the caldera and the high energy, shallow marine environment would have limited preservation of any seafloor deposits. The new U-Pb dates for the base (454.26 ± 0.35 Ma) and top (454.42 ± 0.45 Ma) of the host volcanic rocks, indicate that the Snowdon magmatic activity was short lived, which is likely to have limited the duration and areal extent of the ore-forming system. The absence of massive sulfide mineralization is consistent with the general paucity of economic VMS deposits in the Avalon Zone. Despite the highly prospective geological setting this study further illustrates the importance of volcanic facies mapping and associated paleo-environmental interpretations in VMS exploration.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oregeorev.2017.06.031
ISSN: 01691368
Date made live: 04 Jan 2018 13:35 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/518883

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