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Styles, textural evolution, and sulfur isotope systematics of Cu-rich sulfides from the Cambrian Whalesback volcanogenic massive sulfide deposit, central Newfoundland, Canada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Jonathan Cloutier, Stephen J. Piercey, Graham Layne, John Heslop, Andrew Hussey, Glenn Piercey


The Whalesback Cu-rich volcanogenic massive sulfide deposit in the Newfoundland Appalachians is a highly deformed deposit found on a steep limb of a closed and boudinaged overturned fold. The deposit was intensely deformed at low temperature but medium pressure (>175 MPa) during the accretion of the composite Lushs Bight oceanic tract-Dashwoods terrane onto the Humber margin at ca. 480 Ma.

The ore mineralogy consists of chalcopyrite, pyrrhotite, and pyrite with lesser sphalerite and trace Ag, Bi, and Hg tellurides. Four styles of sulfide mineralization are present: (1) disseminated (5%); (2) vein (50%); (3) breccia (25%); and (4) semimassive to massive (20%). Independent of mineralization style, massive pyrite and pyrrhotite (and some chalcopyrite) are commonly parallel to main S2 schistosity in the deposit, whereas late chalcopyrite piercement veins occur at a high angle to S2. The progressive increase in pressure and temperature produced a remobilization sequence wherein sphalerite was the first sulfide phase to cross the brittle-ductile boundary, followed by pyrrhotite and, finally, chalcopyrite. Maximum temperature was not high enough for the pyrite to cross the brittle-ductile boundary. Instead, pyrite grains were incorporated and transported by pyrrhotite and chalcopyrite during the ductile remobilization events, rounding and fracturing them. Remobilization of the sulfides occurred mainly by plastic flow, but some solution transport and reprecipitation is locally observed.

In situ secondary ion mass spectrometry sulfur isotope geochemistry of sulfides yielded values of δ34S ranging from 2.7‰ to 4.7‰ for pyrite, 2.1‰ to 4.0‰ for pyrrhotite, and 1.3‰ to 4.7‰ for chalcopyrite. Sulfur isotope modeling suggests that at least 60% of the sulfur was derived from leaching of igneous rocks (i.e., basalts), with the remainder derived from thermochemical sulfate reduction of seawater sulfate during alteration of the basalts by seawater. At the deposit scale, sulfur isotopes retained their original signature and did not reequilibrate during the secondary deformation and remobilization events.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1234
JournalEconomic Geology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

    Research areas

  • Economic Geology, Sulphur Isotopes, VMS deposit

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ID: 211292354