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Formation of massive iron deposits linked to explosive volcanic eruptions

Ovalle, J.T., La Cruz, N.L., Reich, M., Barra, F., Simon, A.C., Konecke, B.A., Rodriguez-Mustafa, M.A., Deditius, A.P., Childress, T.M. and Morata, D. (2018) Formation of massive iron deposits linked to explosive volcanic eruptions. Scientific Reports, 8 (1).

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The genetic link between magmas and ore deposit formation is well documented by studies of fossil hydrothermal systems associated with magmatic intrusions at depth. However, the role of explosive volcanic processes as active agents of mineralization remains unexplored owing to the fact that metals and volatiles are released into the atmosphere during the eruption of arc volcanoes. Here, we draw on observations of the uniquely preserved El Laco iron deposit in the Central Andes to shed new light on the metallogenic role of explosive volcanism that operates on a global scale. The massive magnetite (Fe3O4) ore bodies at El Laco have surface structures remarkably similar to basaltic lava flows, stimulating controversy about their origin. A long-standing debate has endured because all proposed models were constructed based exclusively on samples collected from surface outcrops representing the uppermost and most altered portion of the deposit. We overcome this sampling bias by studying samples retrieved from several drill cores and surface outcrops. Our results reveal complex lithological, textural and geochemical variations characterized by magmatic-like features and, most notably, a systematic increase in titanium concentration of magnetite with depth that account for an evolving system transitioning from purely magmatic to magmatic-hydrothermal conditions. We conclude that El Laco, and similar deposits worldwide, formed by a synergistic combination of common magmatic processes enhanced during the evolution of caldera-related explosive volcanic systems.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Information Technology
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Copyright: © 2018 The Author(s)
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