Helmholtz Centre Potsdam
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
Abstract (EDOC: 12127)
Iron isotopes fractionate during hydrothermal processes. Therefore, the Fe isotope composition of ore-forming minerals characterizes either iron sources or fluid histories. The former potentially serves to distinguish between sedimentary, magmatic or metamorphic iron sources, and the latter allows the reconstruction of precipitation and redox processes. These processes take place during ore formation or alteration. The aim of this contribution is to investigate the suitability of this new isotope method as a probe of ore-related processes. For this purpose 51 samples of iron ores and iron mineral separates from the Schwarzwald region, southwest Germany, were analyzed for their iron isotope composition using multicollector ICP-MS. Further, the ore-forming and ore-altering processes were quantitatively modeled using reaction path calculations. The Schwarzwald mining district hosts mineralizations that formed discontinuously over almost 300 Ma of hydrothermal activity. Primary hematite, siderite and sulfides formed from mixing of meteoric fluids with deeper crustal brines. Later, these minerals were partly dissolved and oxidized, and secondary hematite, goethite and iron arsenates were precipitated. Two types of alteration products formed: (1) primary and high-temperature secondary Fe minerals formed between 120 and 300 °C, and (2) low-temperature secondary Fe minerals formed under supergene conditions (<100 °C). Measured iron isotope compositions are variable and cover a range in δ56Fe between -2.3‰ and +1.3‰. Primary hematite (δ56Fe: -0.5‰ to +0.5‰) precipitated by mixing oxidizing surface waters with a hydrothermal fluid that contained moderately light Fe (δ56Fe: -0.5‰) leached from the crystalline basement. Occasional input of CO2-rich waters resulted in precipitation of isotopically light siderite (δ56Fe: -1.4 to -0.7‰). The difference between hematite and siderite is compatible with published Fe isotope fractionation factors. The observed range in isotopic compositions can be accounted for by variable fractions of Fe precipitating from the fluid. Therefore, both fluid processes and mass balance can be inferred from Fe isotopes. Supergene weathering of siderite by oxidizing surface waters led to replacement of isotopically light primary siderite by similarly light secondary hematite and goethite, respectively. Because this replacement entails quantitative transfer of iron from precursor mineral to product, no significant isotope fractionation is produced. Hence, Fe isotopes potentially serve to identify precursors in ore alteration products. Goethites from oolitic sedimentary iron ores were also analyzed. Their compositional range appears to indicate oxidative precipitation from relatively uniform Fe dissolved in coastal water. This comprehensive iron isotope study illustrates the potential of the new technique in deciphering ore formation and alteration processes. Isotope ratios are strongly dependent on and highly characteristic of fluid and precipitation histories. Therefore, they are less suitable to provide information on Fe sources. However, it will be possible to unravel the physico-chemical processes leading to the formation, dissolution and redeposition of ores in great detail.
(2006): Iron isotope fractionation during hydrothermal ore deposition and alteration. Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta, 70, 12, 3011-3030.