New insights into the genesis of volcanic-hosted massive sulfide deposits on the seafloor from numerical modeling studies

Christian Schardt, Ross R. Large

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Numerical computer simulations have been used to gain insight into the evolution of marine hydrothermal systems and the formation conditions of massive sulfide deposits in ancient and modern submarine volcanic terrains. Simulation results have been used to gain a better understanding of the formation of massive sulfide ore deposits, their location, zonation, size, and occurrence in various geotectonic settings. Most hydrothermal fluid discharging at the seafloor exhibits temperatures ranging from 200 °C to about 410 °C and average fluid discharge velocities of 1 to 2 m/s in agreement with seafloor observations. Mass calculations imply that average massive sulfide deposits may form in ~ 5000 years while giant deposits take longer than 5000 years to accumulate; supergiant deposits either need much longer time to form (> 35,000 years) or at least 100 ppm of metal in solution. Results indicate that supergiant deposits may only form in certain geotectonic environments where longevity and preservation potential of the hydrothermal system are high. An additional process (mineral precipitate cap) is proposed here to explain the zinc content of massive sulfide deposits. This cap would prevent the widespread dissolution of anhydrite and the 'wash-out' of zinc by subsequent hydrothermal fluid discharge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-351
Number of pages19
JournalOre Geology Reviews
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study benefited greatly from the discussions with Mike Solomon and Robert Lowell. The senior author is grateful for the financial support from the CODES ARC Centre of Excellence in Ore Deposits at the University of Tasmania.


  • Base metals
  • Numerical modeling
  • Seafloor
  • Sulfides
  • Volcanic-hosted massive sulfide deposits


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