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Hydrogeologic modeling of the genesis of carbonate-hosted lead-zinc ores

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 11:59 authored by Garven, G, Appold, MS, Toptygina, V, Hazlett, TJ
Carbonate-hosted lead-zinc ore deposits in the Mississippi Valley region of North America and in the central midlands region of Ireland provide good examples where ancient groundwater migration controlled ore formation deep within sedimentary basins. Hydrogeologic and geochemical theories for ore genesis are explored in this paper with mathematical models that allow for complex permeability fields in two or three dimensions, hydrothermal flows in fault systems, and coupled effects of geochemical reactions. The hydrogeologic framework of carbonate-hosted ores is analyzed with the aim of developing a quantitative understanding of the necessary and sufficient processes required to form large ore deposits. Numerical simulations of basin-scale hydrodynamics and of deposit-scale reactive flow are presented to demonstrate the processes controlling low-temperature Pb-Zn ore genesis in two world-class ore districts, in southeast Missouri, USA, and central Ireland. The numerical models presented here provide a theoretical basis for the following observations: (1) topography-driven brine migration was the most effective mechanism for forming the large ore districts of the Mississippi Valley, such as the Viburnum Trend of southeast Missouri, during the uplift of the Appalachian-Ouachita mountain belt in late Paleozoic time; (2) three-dimensional flow fields were created by a dolomite facies of the Viburnum Trend, which acted as a giant lens for focusing metal and heat in southeast Missouri to produce the largest known concentration of lead in the Earth's crust; (3) ore-mineralization patterns were controlled locally by basement relief, permeability structure, and sandstone pinchouts, because of their effects on cooling and fluid-flow rates along the Viburnum Trend; (4) both density-driven and topography-driven fluid flow were important for ore genesis in the Irish midlands, where brines moved northward away from the Variscan orogen, leaked into the Hercynian basement, and discharged along normal faults up into the sedimentary cover; and (5) mixed convection within northeast-southwest fault planes elevated heat flow and flow rates that fed ore deposition by fluid mixing, in some cases near the Carboniferous seafloor in Ireland.


Publication title

Hydrogeology Journal








School of Natural Sciences



Place of publication

New York USA

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other mineral resources (excl. energy resources) not elsewhere classified

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