Geological Setting of Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide Deposits and Active Hydrothermal Systems: Some Implications for Exploration

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 786, 1977

C. Jay Hodgson and J. W. Lydon, Department of Geological Sciences, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Now with the Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario

Hydrothermal systems form on land where and when an impermeable cap-rock unit (either natural or self-sealed), a permeable aquifer, and permeable discharge and recharge channels (cross-stratal permeability) develop in an anomalously hot part of the crust. A consideration of the relationship between magmatic and tectonic events in volcanically active areas indicates these conditions arise during: (1) the resurgent doming stage of the resurgent caldera cycle; (2) following movement on the bounding faults of tilted fault blocks; and (3) as a result of hydrothermal boring associated with the intrusion of major sills. On the assumption that the submarine hydrothermal systems which deposit volcanogenic massive sulphide ores are comparable to subaerial hydrothermal systems, it is suggested that: (1) the horizon of mineralization corresponds to the time period when conditions favour the development of hydrothermal systems, as outlined above; (2) exploration for Cu-rich Cu-Zn-Pb or Cu-Zn ores should be directed to paleotopographically high areas near discharge conduits, whereas exploration for Cu-poor Zn-Pb ores should concentrate on paleotopographically low areas down slope from conduits; (3) deposits with stringer zones lying above normally permeable units may be underlain by regionally extensive weakly mineralized and altered zones (self-seal caps); (4) in the absence of a self-sealed cap, the ore horizon may be underlain by a naturally impermeable unit (e.g. a fine clastic sediment); (5) the condition of cross-stratal permeability may be evidenced by features such as dykes, alignment of various magmatic and hydrothermal phenomena, abrupt thickness changes in stratiform units indicative of ponding against syn-volcanic faults, and fault-scarp slump deposits; (6) the condition of high heat flow may be evidenced by near-surface magmatism and steep thermal gradients preserved in metamorphic mineral assemblages.
Keywords: Geology, Exploration, Volcanogenic deposits, Massive sulphide deposits, Hydrothermal systems, Heat sources, Aquifers, Cap rocks, Tectonics.