Evidence of exhalative origin for Tasmanian tin deposits

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 808, 1979

R. W. HUTCHINSON, Dept. of Geology, Faculty of Science, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario

Orebodies of the Renison Bell - Mt. Bischoff tinfield in Tasmania are stratabound, conformable lenses of massive cassiterite-bearing pyrrhotite, with underlying discordant, fault-fracture-controlled and more siliceous ore. The deposits occur in eugeosynclinal, trough-deposited sedimentary and mafic volcanic rocks which are stratigraphically equivalent to differentiated volcanic rocks that contain volcanogenic massive base metal sulphide deposits in a parallel arc to the east. Textures of the massive pyrrhotite ore suggest that it has undergone metamorphic recrystallization. Although the massive ore contains both monoclinic and hexagonal pyrrhotite, a study of a few samples from one orebody suggests that their distribution is stratigraphically controlled, with the monoclinic variety abundant only at the base. The distribution pattern of rare-earth elements in massive ore is similar to that of volcanogenic massive base metal sulphides in New Brunswick, and suggests that mixing of sea water with exhalative hydrothermal brines occurred during ore deposition. Tin is a common accessory element in many volcanogenic massive base metal sulphide deposits, providing strong evidence that it, too, is transported and deposited by volcanic-affiliated hydrothermal brines.Sedimentary rocks containing the massive orebodies are fine grained, thinly laminated, compositionally banded and of mixed chemical sedimentary-tuffaceous origin. They include finely recrystallized chert, carbonate-rich and pyritic varieties; and soft sediment deformation structures in these rocks suggest that dense sulphides deformed underlying, less dense chert prior to lithification. Close to ore the chert becomes massive and coarsely recrystallized, as does the carbonate, which is here strongly enriched in Fe and Mn. Apatite is present in pyritic, cherty and carbonate-rich beds and in the ore itself, in all of which it shows a similar pattern of rare-earth element distribution, suggesting that it is of marine sedimentary origin.These deposits have traditionally been considered as epigenetic replacements of favourable carbonate horizons by hydrothermal fluids derived from later Devonian porphyritic intrusions. Some of these intrusions have associated tin-bearing greisens. The above relationships suggest, alternatively, that, like massive base metal sulphides, the tin deposits were of original syn-sedimentary origin. Circulating hydrothermal brines generated during early Cambrian eugeosynclinal subsidence and tectonism rose through steep fault-fractures, there giving rise to the discordant orebodies, and were discharged on the sea floor, where the massive pyrrhotite lenses were precipitated with the associated cherts and carbonates. In some places, Devonian intrusions remobilized the earlier deposits, forming greisens and new epigenetic veins.Finally, the geologic setting of these deposits, in trough-deposited sedimentary and mafic volcanic rocks, suggests another favourable environment for massive sulphide exploration which is quite different from the domalfelsic volcanic environment so heavily favoured currently in North America.
Keywords: Ore deposits, Tin deposits, Tasmania, Pyrrhotite, Cassiterite, Sulphides, Massive sulphides, Renison Bell Mine, Exhalative origins, Volcanogenic rocks.