Geology of the Foxtrap Pyrophyllite Deposit, Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 71, No. 791, 1978

V. S. Papezik, Professor, Department of Geology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Nfld, H. F. Keats, Project Geologist, United Keno Hill Mines Ltd., Whitehorse, Yukon J. Vahtra, Analytical Officer, Department of Geology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Nfld.

Pyrophyllite, an Al silicate used in the production of ceramic materials, is formed mainly by alteration of felsic to intermediate volcanic rocks, either directly (at temperatures of 250-300°C and pressures of 1-2 kbar) or by subsequent low-grade metamorphism of aluminous protoliths produced by thermal fluids or even by prolonged weathering. Most Pyrophyllite deposits in North America are concentrated in a belt of Late Precambrian volcanic and sedimentary rocks, the "Avalon Zone", which extends along the eastern flank of the Appalachian mountain system from Newfoundland to the southeastern U.S.A. The only producing pyrophyllite mine in Canada is an open pit located near the settlement of Foxtrap on the Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland. It lies in a belt of rhyolitic flows and pyroclastics intruded by a granitoid pluton. The rocks have been leached along a shear- or fracture zone, depleted in silica, alkalies, Ca, Mg and Fe by the action of hydro-thermal fluids, and recrystallized to a very fine-grained massive assemblage of pyrophyllite, muscovite ("sericite") and quartz. High-grade pyrophyllite lenses contain small nodules of diaspore with minor barite; rutile is present in trace amounts. The close proximity of all pyrophyllitized zones on the peninsula to the granite contact suggests that the alteration was produced by thermal fluids genetically connected with the granitoid pluton. The fine-grained pyrophyllite-bearing rocks, with their simple mineralogy, are suitable for quantitative modal analysis by X-ray diffraction. Chemically analyzed samples from the alteration zone were used for the construction of working curves by plotting calculated mineral content against the intensity of selected diffraction peaks. The accuracy of the resulting curves is ±4.5% for quartz, ±3.6% for pyrophyllite and ±2.7% for muscovite. Pelletized samples give best results. The XRD method is suitable for a rapid analysis of a large number of grab or core samples to outline higher-grade areas for more detailed sampling.
Keywords: Pyrophyllite, Newfoundland, Precambrian, Volcanics, Metasomatic alteration, XRD analysis, Fox-trap deposit.