• Complex subvolcanic magma plumbing system of an alkali basaltic maar-diatreme volcano (Elie Ness, Fife, Scotland)

      Upton, B.G.J.; Ugra, R.; Yücel, C.; Taylor, R.N.; Elliott, Holly; University of Southampton (Elsevier, 2016-08-17)
      Alkali basaltic diatremes such as Elie Ness (Fife, Scotland) expose a range of volcanic lithofacies that points to a complex, multi-stage emplacement history. Here, basanites contain phenocrysts including pyrope garnet and sub-calcic augites from depths of ~60km. Volcanic rocks from all units, pyroclastic and hypabyssal, are characterised by rare earth element (REE) patterns that show continuous enrichment from heavy REE (HREE) to light REE (LREE), and high Zr/Y that are consistent with retention of garnet in the mantle source during melting of peridotite in a garnet lherzolite facies. Erupted garnets are euhedral and unresorbed, signifying rapid ascent through the lithosphere. The magmas also transported abundant pyroxenitic clasts, cognate with the basanite host, from shallower depths (~35–40km). These clasts exhibit wide variation in texture, mode and mineralogy, consistent with growth from a range of compositionally diverse melts. Further, clinopyroxene phenocrysts from both the hypabyssal and pyroclastic units exhibit a very wide compositional range, indicative of polybaric fractionation and magma mixing. This is attributed to stalling of earlier magmas in the lower crust — principally from ~22 to 28km — as indicated by pyroxene thermobarometry. Many clinopyroxenes display chemical zoning profiles, occasionally with mantles and rims of higher magnesium number (Mg#) suggesting the magmas were mobilised by juvenile basanite magma. The tuffs also contain alkali feldspar megacrysts together with Fe-clinopyroxene, zircon and related salic xenoliths, of the ‘anorthoclasite suite’ — inferred to have crystallised at upper mantle to lower crustal depths from salic magma in advance of the mafic host magmas. Despite evidence for entrainment of heterogeneous crystal mushes, the rapidly ascending melts experienced negligible crustal contamination. The complex association of phenocrysts, megacrysts and autoliths at Elie Ness indicates thorough mixing in a dynamic system immediately prior to explosive diatreme-forming eruptions.
    • Diatremes act as fluid conduits for Zn-Pb mineralization in the SW Irish Ore field

      Gernon, Thomas M.; Roberts, Stephen; Boyce, Adrian J.; Hewson, Chad; Elliott, Holly; University of Southampton (GeoScienceWorld, 2019-02-28)
      Irish-type mineralization is commonly attributed to fault-controlled mixing of a seawater-derived, sulfur-rich fluid and basement-derived, metal-rich fluid. However, maar-diatreme volcanoes discovered in close spatial and temporal association with Zn-Pb mineralization at Stonepark in the Limerick basin (southwest Ireland) bring a new dimension to established geologic models and may increase the deposit-scale prospectivity in one of the world’s greatest Zn-Pb districts. Stonepark exhibits many incidences of dolomitic black matrix breccias with associated Zn-Pb mineralization, the latter typically occurring within 150 m of the diatremes. Highly negative δ34S pyrite values within country rock-dominated black matrix breccias (–12 to –34‰) are consistent with sulfide precipitation from bacteriogenic sulfur reduction in seawater-derived brines. However, δ34S values of Zn-Pb sulfides replacing black matrix breccias (–10 to 1‰) reflect multiple sulfur sources. Diatreme emplacement both greatly enhanced country rock fracture permeability and produced conduits that are filled with porous volcaniclastic material and extend down to basement rock types. Our δ34S data suggest that diatremes provide more efficient fluid pathways for basement-derived fluids. The diatremes introduce another potential sulfur source and facilitate a greater input of metal-rich basement-derived hydrothermal fluid into the system compared to other Irish-type deposits such as Navan and Lisheen, evidenced by Stonepark’s more positive modal δ34S value of –4‰. Irish-type deposits are traditionally thought to form in association with extensional basement faults and are considered unrelated to extensive Carboniferous magmatism. Our results indicate that a direct link exists between diatreme volcanism and Zn-Pb mineralization at Limerick, prompting a reevaluation of the traditional Irish-type ore formation model, in regions where mineralization is spatially associated with volcanic pipes.