Volcanic and hydrothermal processes in submarine calderas: the Kulo Lasi example (SW Pacific)

The study area is located at the transition between the northern end of the Tonga Trench and the North Fiji fracture zone, where tectonic movements are reputed to be the fastest in the world. To the southeast of Futuna Island, a broad area of volcanism occurs within a region characterized by a change in the tectonic fabric between a NE-SW oriented volcanic graben and the N-S oriented Alofi ridge. In 2010, the active volcano Kulo Lasi, which represents the most recent volcanic episode in the Futuna area, was discovered in the center of this extensive volcanic zone. Kulo Lasi is a 20 km diameter shield volcano that rises 400 m above the seafloor. It is composed of basaltic to trachy-andesitic lava with no obvious geochemical affinity with the Tonga subduction that occurs 500 km to the east. The central caldera is 5 km in diameter and 300 m deep and is located at a water depth of 1500 m. Diving operations with the submersible Nautile and high-resolution AUV mapping, have revealed the presence of numerous active and inactive hydrothermal fields on the floor and the walls of the caldera. Four tectono-volcanic stages can be distinguished at Kulo Lasi caldera. In stage 1, the shield volcano is built. Annular reverse faults develop at the summit and control circulation of water/rock-dominated hydrothermal fluids and high-temperature alteration of rocks along the nascent normal faults. Mixing of hydrothermal fluids with seawater is favored along normal superficial faults, leading to the formation of low-temperature Fe/Mn mineralization at the summit of the volcano. During stage 2, the caldera collapse, gradually revealing outcrops of the altered and mineralized zones formed during Stage 1. As the magma chamber cools and collapses, less heat is available. As a result, medium to low-temperature (<100 °C) Fe/Si deposits form on the floor of the caldera. In stage 3, refilling and ascent of the magma chamber at depth promote the uplift of a central resurgent dome devoid of recent lava emission. The depth of the magma chamber under the dome is estimated to be 1.6 km. Annular dykes feeding the new lava flows are controlled by the deep reverse faults at the outer rim of the caldera floor. The eruptive events are accompanied by short-lived emission of magmatic fluids, rich in SO2, materialized by the presence of native sulfur depositions on the surface of the most recent lava flows. During stage 4 (present day), black smoker sulfide chimneys, controlled by the deep reverse faults, form at the surface of the most recent lava flows at the outer part of the caldera floor. The fluids emitted result from the mixing of a deep fluid of the water/rock reaction type and of shallow seawater superheated in contact with the hot dykes. Hydrogen is generated during reaction of seawater with the hot dikes and H2 is enriched in the mixed fluids. Active (43°C) siliceous chimneys at the base of the caldera walls and low-temperature vents (6°C) perched on the caldera walls suggests a decrease in the venting temperature at a distance from the floor of the caldera. In chimneys, the sphalerite/pyrrhotite/isocubanite/barite paragenesis, probably linked to the high H2 concentrations in the fluids, indicate unusual reducing conditions for a back-arc. The sulfide mineralization also has unusual trace element concentrations. The concentration in Pb and Ba appears characteristic of back-arc environments while the enrichment in Co, Se, and Sn is more common to mineralization associated with basalt in mature back-arcs and associated with ultramafic rocks on mid ocean ridges.


Subaqueous volcanism, Hydrothermal activity, Kulo Lasi caldera, Sulfides, SW Pacific

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Fouquet Yves, Pelleter Ewan, Konn Cecile, Chazot Gilles, Dupre Stephanie, Alix Anne-Sophie, Cheron Sandrine, Donval Jean-Pierre, Guyader Vivien, Etoubleau Joel, Charlou Jean-Luc, Labanieh Shasa, Scalabrin Carla (2018). Volcanic and hydrothermal processes in submarine calderas: the Kulo Lasi example (SW Pacific). Ore Geology Reviews. 99. 314-343. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oregeorev.2018.06.006, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00445/55633/

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