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Sm-Nd, Sr, C and O isotope systematics in hydrothermal calcite-fluorite veins: Implications for fluid-rock reaction and geochronology

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 22:41 authored by Shaun BarkerShaun Barker, Bennett, VC, Cox, SF, Norman, MD, Gagan, MK

The 147Sm-143Nd isotope system may be used to determine the age of hydrothermal vein growth for single veins, or sets of veins, providing that the minerals in these veins formed from a hydrothermal fluid with initially homogeneous 143Nd/144Nd. In this study, we determined the 147Sm-143Nd, 87Sr/86Sr, δ13C and δ18O isotopic composition of 9 calcite and fluorite veins (comprising 12 samples in total) that form part of a low-temperature (100-200 °C) fault and fracture hosted hydrothermal system, in the eastern Lachlan Fold Belt, Australia. The vein swarm is hosted by mid-Devonian limestones, which were folded around 350-325 Ma, with vein growth occurring during folding.

The veins chosen for analysis yield homogeneous Sr isotopic compositions (87Sr/86Sr = 0.70851 ±0.00003) and δ18O isotope values (22.5 ± 0.1‰), which are similar to those of the host limestones. The homogeneity of Sr and O isotope compositions is attributed to the progressive reaction of fluids with host rock, with sufficient reaction occurring along discrete fluid flow pathways to fully equilibrate the fluids for these isotope systems. By contrast, 143Nd/144Nd isotope compositions for the same samples show more variation (143Nd/144Nd = 0.51259-0.51199), which significantly exceeds analytical error. In addition, calcite and fluorite from within the same vein have distinctly different age-corrected Nd isotope compositions. Accordingly, it is likely that fluorite and calcite precipitated from different fluids.

This study indicates that apparently synchronous vein-forming fluids, as suggested by structural relationships, may have diverse isotopic characteristics even over relatively small scales, reflecting variable equilibration of the fluids with the host-rocks. Incomplete equilibration or mixing, resulting in a range of initial 143Nd/144Nd compositions, is likely to be a common characteristic of fracture-hosted hydrothermal systems, compromising attempts to determine ages using Sm-Nd isochrons. The formation of veins with essentially identical Sr and O isotope compositions, yet diverse initial 143Nd/144Nd ratios, means that Sr and O isotopes cannot be used to identify suitable samples for Sm–Nd geochronological studies.


Publication title

Chemical Geology










School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier Science Bv

Place of publication

Po Box 211, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1000 Ae

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Copyright © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Socio-economic Objectives

Mineral exploration not elsewhere classified