Ni-Cu-Co-rich hydrothermal manganese mineralization in the Wallis and Futuna back-arc environment (SW Pacific)

Type Article
Date 2017-07
Language English
Author(s) Pelleter EwanORCID1, Fouquet Yves1, Etoubleau Joel1, Cheron Sandrine1, Labanieh Shasa1, Josso Pierre1, Bollinger Claire3, Langlade Jessica2
Affiliation(s) 1 : IFREMER, Unite Rech Geosci Marines, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
2 : CNRS, Ifremer C Brest, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
3 : Inst Univ Europeen Mer, UMS 3113, Plouzane, France.
Source Ore Geology Reviews (0169-1368) (Elsevier Science Bv), 2017-07 , Vol. 87 , P. 126-146
DOI 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2016.09.014
WOS© Times Cited 2
Keyword(s) Hydrothermal, Diffuse flow, Manganese oxyhydroxides, Metal-rich, Seafloor, Wallis and Futuna Island, South-West Pacific
Abstract The Wallis and Futuna back-arc system is a complex area composed of at least two active oceanic spreading centers (Futuna and Alofi spreading centers) and young volcanic zones characterized by diffuse magmatism locally affected by the Samoan hotspot. This geological setting is favorable to the establishment of hydrothermal systems either high-temperature (HT) hydrothermal venting or low-temperature (LT) diffuse flow. During the 2010 Futuna cruise aboard R/V L'Atalante, three remarkable inactive LT Fe-Si-Mn deposits have been discovered (i.e. Utu Uli, Anakele and Utu Sega). Some of the Mn-rich precipitates exhibit the highest base metals concentrations so far recorded in ferromanganese rocks including the well-documented hydrogenetic crusts and polymetallic nodules. The deposits lies on top of the volcanoes and formed in close association with the volcanic facies. The manganese mineralization occurs as massive layered crust and Mn-rich cements within strongly altered basaltic pyroclastic rocks, brecciated lavas and rarely sediments. Field observations, mineralogical and chemical studies support a hydrothermal origin for the mineralization and show that nickel, cobalt and copper enrichments are controlled by the precipitation of 7 Å and 10 Å manganates. The conventional geochemical classifications (e.g. Bonatti et al., 1972) used to decipher the origin of Mn mineralization can no longer be used for this new type of deposit and new robust discrimination diagrams need to be established. We suggest that the unusual enrichment of metals recorded in our samples is due to: (i) lack of precipitation of high-temperature massive sulfides at depths which would have retained metals (e.g. Cu, Ni, Co); (ii) the isolation of the hydrothermal system avoiding Ni, Co and Cu losses in the water column; and (iii) the ability of birnessite and buserite/todorokite to strongly scavenge Co, Ni, and Cu from aqueous fluids. The Utu Uli and Anakele deposits share some common characters with the active hydrothermal system at Loihi seamount (e.g. depth of mineralization, relationship with pyroclastic volcanoes, and influence of a mantle plume source) and thus, might represent the late-stage products of this specific type of hydrothermal activity. Besides, the Co-rich mineralization of the Calatrava volcanic field (Spain) may be a potential analog of the Utu Sega deposit. The CVF Mn-(Co) deposits formed in close proximity to Pliocene volcanic rocks. In those deposits, metals were transported by epithermal hydrothermal solutions with high fO2 and cobalt was strongly scavenged by Mn oxides. Together with the well-documented stratabound Mn deposits (González et al., 2016; Hein et al., 2008; Hein et al., 1996), the Mn deposits discovered in the Wallis and Futuna back-arc provide crucial insights for understanding the low temperature hydrothermal activity in the deep ocean. The metal-rich character of this low-temperature hydrothermal activity may be of major importance for future research on the net flux of hydrothermally derived metals (e.g. Ni, Co, Cu) to the open ocean.
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