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Deposition of talc-kerolite-smectite-smectite at sea floor hydrothermal vent fields; evidence from mineralogical, geochemical and oxygen isotope studies

Deposition of talc-kerolite-smectite-smectite at sea floor hydrothermal vent fields; evidence from mineralogical, geochemical and oxygen isotope studies

Chemical Geology 247(1-2): 171-194

ISSN/ISBN: 0009-2541

Talc, kerolite-smectite, smectite, chlorite-smectite and chlorite samples from sediments, chimneys and massive sulfides from six seafloor hydrothermal areas have been analyzed for mineralogy, chemistry and oxygen isotopes. Samples are from both peridotite- and basalt-hosted hydrothermal systems, and basaltic systems include sediment-free and sediment-covered sites. Mg-phyllosilicates at seafloor hydrothermal sites have previously been described as talc, stevensite or saponite. In contrast, new data show tri-octahedral Mg-phyllosilicates ranging from pure talc and Fe-rich talc, through kerolite-rich kerolite-smectite to smectite-rich kerolite-smectite and tri-octahedral smectite. The most common occurrence is mixed-layer kerolite-smectite, which shows an almost complete interstratification series with 5 to 85% smectitic layers. The smectite interstratified with kerolite is mostly tri-octahedral. The degree of crystal perfection of the clay sequence decreases generally from talc to kerolite-smectite with lower crystalline perfection as the proportion of smectite layers in kerolite-smectite increases. Our studies do not support any dependence of the precipitated minerals on the type/subtype of hydrothermal system. Oxygen isotope geothermometry demonstrates that talc and kerolite-smectite precipitated in chimneys, massive sulfide mounds, at the sediment surface and in open cracks in the sediment near seafloor are high-temperature (>250 degrees C) phases that are most probably the result of focused fluid discharge. The other end-member of this tri-octahedral Mg-phyllosilicate sequence, smectite, is a moderate-temperature (200-250 degrees C) phase forming deep within the sediment ( approximately 0.8 m). Chlorite and chlorite-smectite, which constitute the alteration sediment matrix around the hydrothermal mounds, are lower-temperature (150-200 degrees C) phases produced by diffuse fluid discharge through the sediment around the hydrothermal conduits. In addition to temperature, other two controls on the precipitation of this sequence are the silica activity and Mg/Al ratio (i.e. the degree of mixing of seawater with hydrothermal fluid). Higher silica activity favors the formation of talc relative to tri-octahedral smectite. Vent structures and sedimentary cover preclude complete mixing of hydrothermal fluid and ambient seawater, resulting in lower Mg/Al ratios in the interior parts of the chimneys and deeper in the sediment which leads to the precipitation of phyllosilicates with lower Mg contents. Talc and kerolite-smectite have very low trace- and rare earth element contents. Some exhibit a negative or flat Eu anomaly, which suggests Eu depletion in the original hydrothermal fluid. Such Eu depletion could be caused by precipitation of anhydrite or barite (sinks for Eu (super 2+) ) deeper in the system. REE abundances and distribution patterns indicate that chlorite and chlorite-smectite are hydrothermal alteration products of the background turbiditic sediment.

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