Geological fate of seafloor massive sulphides at the TAG hydrothermal field (Mid-Atlantic Ridge)

Murton, Bramley J. ORCID:; Lehrmann, Berit ORCID:; Dutrieux, Adeline M.; Martins, Sofia; de la Iglesia, Alba Gil; Stobbs, Iain J.; Barriga, Fernando J.A.S.; Bialas, Jörg; Dannowski, Anke; Vardy, Mark E.; North, Laurence J.; Yeo, Isobel A.L.M. ORCID:; Lusty, Paul A.J.; Petersen, Sven. 2019 Geological fate of seafloor massive sulphides at the TAG hydrothermal field (Mid-Atlantic Ridge). Ore Geology Reviews, 107. 903-925.

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Deep-sea mineral deposits potentially represent vast metal resources that could make a major contribution to future global raw material supply. Increasing demand for these metals, many of which are required to enable a low-carbon and high-technology society and to relieve pressure on land-based resources, may result in deep sea mining within the next decade. Seafloor massive sulphide (SMS) deposits, containing abundant copper, zinc, gold and silver, have been the subject of recent and ongoing commercial interest. Although many seafloor hydrothermally systems have been studied, inactive SMS deposits are likely more accessible to future mining and far more abundant, but are often obscured by pelagic sediment and hence difficult to locate. Furthermore, SMS deposits are three dimensional. Yet, to date, very few have been explored or sampled below the seafloor. Here, we describe the most comprehensive study to date of hydrothermally extinct seafloor massive sulphide (eSMS) deposits formed at a slow spreading ridge. Our approach involved two research cruises in the summer of 2016 to the Trans-Atlantic Geotraverse (TAG) hydrothermal field at 26°N on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. These expeditions mapped a number of hydrothermally extinct SMS deposits using an autonomous underwater vehicle and remotely operated vehicle, acquired a combination of geophysical data including sub-seafloor seismic reflection and refraction data from 25 ocean bottom instruments, and recovered core using a robotic lander-type seafloor drilling rig. Together, these results that have allowed us to construct a new generic model for extinct seafloor massive sulphide deposits indicate the presence of up to five times more massive sulphide at and below the seafloor than was previously thought.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 01691368
Date made live: 13 May 2019 16:00 +0 (UTC)

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