The role of fluids during formation and evolution of the southern superior province lithosphere: An overview

Robert Kerrich*, John Ludden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Models for fluid flow and hydrothermal alteration for the Abitibi greenstone belt are reviewed in the light of Lithoprobe results in the region. In the Abitibi greenstone belt, eruption of volcanic sequences over 2750-2700 Ma was accompanied by pervasive low-temperature hydrothermal alteration at high water/rock ratios, giving systematic 18O-enrichment. Archean ambient ocean water bottom temperatures were likely ca. 30°C, and δ18O ∼0 ± 1‰. Chertiron formations precipitated from low temperature hydrothermal discharge. Base metal massive sulphide deposits formed at or near the seafloor from focussed discharge of high-temperature (∼300-400°C) fluids in convective cells sited above subvolcanic intrusions. The ore fluids were evolved seawater that had undergone compositional and isotopic evolution by high-temperature, low water/rock exchange with the volcanic pile to NaCl (3-7 wt.%) or CaCl2-NaCl (up to 30 wt.%) brines of δ18O = 0-8‰. These volcanic associated hydrothermal deposits are associated with greenstone belt asemblages in the northern Abitibi subprovince that were emplaced as a series of thrust slices over the Opatica plutonic belt. In the southern Abitibi subprovince the hydrothermal deposits were associated with a series of rift basins (Noranda, Val d'Or, etc.), formed on top of accreted oceanic assemblages comprising primitive arcs and plateaus, or in protoarcs, and associated with oblique convergence. Contemporaneous erosion of emergent arcs and the older cratonic provenance terrane of the Pontiac subprovince by orographic rainfall, and submarine weathering, fed first-cycle volcanogenic sediments to depositional basins in the Abitibi, but siliciclastic sediments of mixed old 3 Ga continent and 2.7 Ga arc provenance in the Pontiac subprovince. Abitibi subprovince turbidites were more weathered and 18O-enriched than Pontiac subprovince equivalents. Subduction-accretion assembly of the Opatica-Abitibi and Pontiac terranes involved allochthonous thrusting of the Abitibi subprovince over the Pontiac subprovince. There were several pulses of granitoid magmatism during accretionary assembly over 2695 to 2674 Ma. Syn-to late-tectonic tonalites were generated by melting of hot young hydrous ocean crust in a shallow-dipping intraoceanic subduction zone. The intrusions exsolved small quantities of magmatic fluids that formed Cu-Zn showings. Late-tectonic shoshonites formed at ≥80 km in subarc mantle wedge by slab dehydration-wedge melting. This late-stage of arc development involved transfer of significant quantities of gas-rich alkaline magmas 80+ km through the lithosphere along the accretionary terrane bounding structures, and produced small phosphorus and barite deposits. Synmagmatic metamorphism was of the high-temperature low-pressure type, and occurred in several pulses; water/rock ratios were generally low distal from structures. Tens of thousands of cubic kilometres of fluids generated by dehydration reactions at the base of the subduction-accretion complex, during thermal relaxation following collision and the main granitoid pulses, advected up terrane boundary structures and locally generated lode gold deposits. At the highest structural levels these fluids mixed with Archean meteoric water where δ18O < 0. A second metamorphism (M2) occurred over 2645 to 2611 Ma leading to melting of Pontiac sediments and formation of S-type granites. Deposits of Mo, Th, and P were precipitated from magmatic fluids of δ18O 8-9‰. M2 variably reset radiogenic and stable isotope systems in nonrobust minerals of volcanogenic massive sulphide and lode gold deposits. Hypersaline CaCl2 formation brines evolved in Paleoproterozoic glaciogenic sediments; these penetrated into the Archean basement where they redistributed gold and are pervasively present as low-temperature secondary brine inclusions. The Matachewan (2.5 Ga) and Hearst dyke swarms drove higher temperature advection of the brines, and Ag-Co-Ni sulpharsenide deposits formed by thermal evolution of the brines driven by the Nipissing diabase dyke swarm at ∼2219 Ma. Local resetting of 40Ar/39Ar spectra between 2550 and 2200 Ma was the product of tectonic pumping of fluids along reactivated Archean structures, possibly due to coupling of the 200 km thick mantle lithosphere to Archean crust. Seismic evidence for late overprinting of the lower crust and growth of 2450 Ma zircon rims in lower crustal assemblages were associated with this event. There was also fluid activity at 1950 to 1850 Ma due to the Hudsonian orogen induced Kapuskasing event. Hypersaline CaCl2-rich brines formed in the Paleozoic sedimentary cover (∼500 Ma), penetrated deep (>5 km) into the Archean basement, and comprise vast reservoirs of hypersaline brines deep in the Shield. The brines precipitated prehnite-laumontite veins that record hundreds of increments of dilation. Subglacial 18O-depleted fluids penetrated to shallow (≥1 km) depths in the Quaternary; they form mixing lines with the hypersaline end member. Extremely D-depleted (-400 to -100‰) CH4 and H discharge in mining districts of the Shield. The depleted H may form by radiolysis of H2O and (or) by a Fischer-Tropsch type process. The hypersaline brine end-member was shifted to the left of the meteoric water line by exchange with D-depleted H.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-164
Number of pages30
JournalCanadian Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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