Deducing patterns of fluid flow and mixing within the TAG active hydrothermal mound using mineralogical and geochemical data
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The TAG active hydrothermal mound, located 2.4 km east of the neovolcanic zone at 26 degrees N, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, is similar to 200 m in diameter, exhibits 50 m of relief, and is covered entirely by hydrothermal precipitates. Eight different types of vent solids were recovered from the mound by the submersibles Alvin and Mir in 1986, 1990, and 1991. Detailed petrographic and geochemical studies of samples and their distribution are used to deduce patterns of fluid flow and seawater/hydrothermal fluid interaction. Geochemical modeling calculations using fluid composition data corroborate these interpretations. Current activity includes highly focused flow of 363 degrees C fluid from a chimney cluster on the top of the mound and deposition of a high fS(2)-fO(2) mineral assemblage that reflects low concentrations of H2S in black smoker fluid. Slow percolation of black smoker fluid pooled beneath the black smoker cluster and entrainment of seawater result in formation of massive sulfide crusts and massive anhydrite. These three sample types are enriched in Co and Se. Blocks of sulfide and white smoker chimneys, enriched in Zn, Au, Ag, Sb, Cd, and Pb, are forming on the surface of the mound from black smoker fluid that has been modified by mixing with entrained seawater, precipitation of sulfides and anhydrite, and dissolution of sphalerite within the mound. This is the first time that on-going remobilization, zone refinement, and significant modification of high-temperature fluid in the near surface has been documented in a seafloor hydrothermal system. Deposits df ocherous material and massive sulfide with outer oxidized layers that formed during previous hydrothermal episodes are exposed on the steep outer walls of the mound. Studies of the full range of samples demonstrate that highly focused fluid flow, consequent seawater entrainment, and mixing within the mound can result in formation of a large seafloor hydrothermal deposit exhibiting sample types similar to those observed in Cyprus-type ore bodies.