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Hydrothermal fluid processes and evolution of the Giant Serra Norte Jaspilite-hosted iron ore deposits, Carajas mineral province, Brazil

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 21:03 authored by e Silva, RCF, Hagemann, S, Lobato, LM, Rosiere, CA, Banks, DA, Davidson, GJ, Vennemann, T, Hergt, J
The Serra Norte Carajas banded iron-formation (BIF)-hosted iron ore deposits are located in the Carajas mineral province. The deposits are hosted in the ca. 2.7 Ga Grao Para Group, a metamorphosed volcanic-sedimentary sequence where jaspilites are under- and overlain by basalts, both at greenschist facies conditions. They represent one of the largest high-grade (>60 wt % Fe) BIF iron ore deposits and resources in the world, with hypogene iron mineralization considered to be Paleoproterozoic. Four main open pits have, to date, produced about 1.2 billion metric tons (Bt) of high-grade iron ore with additional resources of 10 Bt. Ore types at the Serra Norte deposits include soft and hard ore; the latter consists of banded, massive and/or brecciated ores and is mainly localized along the contact with the surrounding hydrothermally altered basalts. Distinct hydrothermal alteration zones consist of veins and breccias that surround the hard ores, including: (1) an early alteration zone (distal portion of orebodies), characterized by recrystallization of jasper, formation of magnetite (+/- martite), and the local introduction of quartz and carbonate-sulfide (+/- quartz) veins; (2) intermediate alteration, synchronous with the main iron ore-forming event, which is accompanied by widespread development of martite, quartz-hematite and hematite-quartz veins, and dissolution of carbonate; and (3) proximal alteration zone having various types of hard and hard-porous hematite ores containing naicroplaty, anhedral, euhedral, and tabular hematite species. Locally, high-grade breccia ores contain dolomite and kutnahorite matrices indicating carbonate introduction. High-grade ore zones contain quartz +/- carbonate-hematite veins and breccias. Combined microthermometry, iron chromatography, and in situ laser ablation ICP-MS analyses on fluid inclusion assemblages from five vein types reveal that (1) early alteration vein-breccia quartz-carbonate contains high-salinity (up to 30 equiv wt % NaCl) fluid inclusions, with Ca, besides Na, K, and Mg, which were trapped at temperatures of 220 degrees to 320 degrees C. The quartz-hosted fluid inclusions have a wide range of Cl/Br ratios, presence of Li, base metals Cu-Pb-Zn, and Fe; (2) intermediate alteration vein quartz contains both low-salinity (Na-Fe-Mg-rich) and high-salinity (Ca-Mg-Fe-rich) fluid inclusions, with trapping temperatures of 210 degrees to 290 degrees C; (3) advanced alteration vein and breccia quartz-carbonate has low- to high-salinity fluid inclusions and trapping temperatures between 240 degrees to 310 degrees C, with the low-salinity inclusions being much more abundant in quartz. There is a gradual dilution of the metals signature in fluid inclusions from early to late- and/or advanced-stage veins and breccias. The large amount of Ca in the fluid inclusions is compatible with extensive exchange of the hydrothermal fluids with the surrounding chloritized-hematitized metabasaltic wall rock. Oxygen isotope analyses on different oxide species reveal that the heaviest delta O-18(smow) values, up to 15.2 parts per thousand, are recorded for jaspilites, followed by magnetite, between 0.4 to +4.3 parts per thousand, and then by different hematite species such as microplaty, anhedral and tabular, which fall in the range of -9.5 to 2.4 parts per thousand. These results show a progressive depletion in delta O-18 values from the earliest introduced hydrothermal oxide magnetite toward the latest tabular hematite. The advanced alteration stage in high-grade ore displays the most depleted 180 values and represents the highest fluid/rock ratio during hydrothermal alteration. This depletion is interpreted to result from the progressive mixture of descending, heated meteoric water with ascending modified magmatic fluids. Sulfides from the distal zone of metabasaltic rocks have delta S-34 values close to 0 parts per thousand, consistent with a magmatic origin for the sulfur. Heavier delta S-34 values, of up to 10.8 parts per thousand, in vein sulfides hosted in jaspilite, may reflect interaction with meteoric waters or, alternatively, variations in fO(2) and pH conditions during evolution of the hydrothermal fluid. Calcite-kutnahorite delta C-13 and delta O-18 values from the distal alteration zones show a large delta C-13 range of -5.5 to -2.4%o and a relatively narrow delta O-18 range of 9.3 to 11.7 parts per thousand. However, dolomite matrix breccias from the advanced hydrothermal zone, i.e., ore, exhibit a wider delta O-18 range from 15.1 to 21.8 parts per thousand and a more restricted delta O-13 range from 5.0 to 3.9 parts per thousand. This latter range points to a single carbon source, of possible magmatic nature, whereas the larger delta O-18 range suggests multiple carbon and oxygen sources. The Sr-87/Sr-86 ratios for carbonates from the distal and advanced hydrothermal zones range between 0.7116 to 0.7460, suggesting incorporation of strontium from multiple crustal sources, including magmatic-hydrothermal fluids. A dual magmatic-meteoric hydrothermal fluid-flow model is proposed for the hematite ores in which an early, low Cl/Br ratio, saline, ascending modified magmatic fluid, caused widespread oxidation of magnetite to hematite. Progressive influx of light delta O-18 meteoric water, mixing with the ascending magmatic fluids, is interpreted to have been initiated during the intermediate stage of alteration. The advanced and final hydrothermal stage was dominated by a massive influx of low-salinity meteoric water, which maintained intermediate temperatures of 240 degrees to 310 degrees C, and concomitant formation of the paragenetically latest tabular hematite. The giant Carajas iron deposits are unique in their setting within an Archean granite-greenstone belt and their modified magmatic-meteoric hydrothermal system, compared to the other two end-member BIF iron deposit types, namely the basin-related Hamersley type and the metamorphosed metasedimentary-basin-related Iron-Quadrangle-type. The distinct hydrothermal alteration signature present in both wall-rock basalts and jaspilites, in combination with distinct fluid chemistry signatures, particularly the low delta O-18 values of paragenetically late oxides indicative of massive influx of meteoric water into the high-grade orebodies, provide distinctive parameters for defining the Carajas end-member type BIF deposit class


Publication title

Economic Geology










School of Natural Sciences


Society of Economic Geologists, Inc.

Place of publication

Littleton, USA

Rights statement

Copyright 2013 Society of Economic Geologists

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Iron ore exploration

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