Metal Preservation and Mobilization in Sediments at the TAG Hydrothermal Field, Mid-Atlantic Ridge

TitleMetal Preservation and Mobilization in Sediments at the TAG Hydrothermal Field, Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsDutrieux, AMarie, Lichtschlag, A, Barriga, FJAS, Martins, S, Milinovic, J, Murton, BJ
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Keywordsgeochemistry, hydrothermal sediments, metals, porewater, seafloor massive sulfides, TAG

Abstract At the Trans-Atlantic Geotraverse hydrothermal field, metalliferous sediments cover extinct hydrothermal mounds and the surrounding seafloor. Here, we report the morphological, mineralogical and geochemical processes that deposit these sediments, remobilize their metals, and affect their preservation. We found that the initial sediment metal tenor is controlled by physical transport of hydrothermal material from its source, followed by diagenetic redistribution and potentially diffuse fluid flow after high-temperature hydrothermal activity has ceased. We distinguished three different environments: (a) proximal metalliferous sediments on top of extinct mounds are mainly derived from oxidative weathering of primary sulfide structures and are predominantly composed of Fe oxyhydroxides with low contents of Cu, Co, and Zn; metal enrichments in specific layers are likely related to upward flow of low-temperature hydrothermal fluids; (b) medial distant metalliferous sediments found at the base of the mounds, deposited by mass transport, contain cm-thick layers of unsorted sulfide sands with high base metal contents (e.g., up to 28% Cu); these buried sulfides continue to undergo dissolution, resulting in metal release into porewaters; (c) distal metalliferous sediments, found in depositional basins a few hundreds of meters from the extinct mounds, include fining-upwards sequences of thin sulfide sand layers with Fe oxyhydroxides and were deposited by recurrent turbiditic flows. Dissolved metals (e.g., Cu2+ and Mn2+) diffuse upwards under reducing conditions and precipitate within the sediment. Hence, when using hydrothermal sediments to construct reliable geochronological records of hydrothermal activity, distance from source, local seafloor morphology, mass-transport and depositional, and diagenetic modification should all be considered.