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Published September 1, 2007 | public
Journal Article

¹⁸O/¹⁶O Evidence for Contrasting Hydrothermal Regimes Involving Magmatic and Meteoric-Hydrothermal Waters at the Valhalla Metamorphic Core Complex, British Columbia


Modeling of published oxygen isotope analyses of 115 whole-rock, quartz, and feldspar samples from the Valhalla metamorphic core complex provides evidence for three distinct stages of hydrothermal activity affecting the detachment faults and upper plate. (1) Lithostatically pressured aqueous fluids having δ¹⁸O ~10 per mil were expelled from the lower plate and moved upward into the upper plate through an oblique-sinistral transfer zone between the southern terminus of the Columbia River detachment fault and the northern terminus of the Slocan Lake detachment fault. These fluids ascended through fractures and exchanged with Slocan Group shales and graywackes to produce the marked zonation of vein siderite δ¹⁸O (11.4–18.4‰) observed in previous studies of the Sandon group of Ag-Pb-Zn lode deposits. (2) Later, as brittle deformation along the Slocan Lake detachment fault became the dominant tectonic process, these magmatic and/or metamorphic fluids intermittently mixed with even larger quantities of downward circulating, hydrostatically pressured meteoric-hydrothermal fluids. In the upper plate Nelson granodiorite adjacent to the Slocan Lake detachment fault, δ¹⁸O values of quartz (8.9–11.9‰) and feldspar (−5.0 to +9.6‰) define a steep array in δ-δ space (slope = 25), suggesting that synextensional meteoric-hydrothermal activity along the Slocan Lake detachment fault (initial δ¹⁸Owater ~−15‰ and T ~300°C) was relatively short-lived (~10⁶ yr), but very intense, with W/R_(open-system) = ≤1.05 and fluid flux = 0.1 to 3 m/yr. The δ¹⁸O values of quartz (10.8–12.4‰) and feldspar (6.4–10.1‰) from lower plate greenschist mylonites indicate that small quantities of the low ¹⁸O meteoric-hydrothermal fluids penetrated into the lower plate. The systematic decrease in feldspar δ¹⁸O toward the Slocan Lake detachment fault in both the upper and lower plates shows that these low ¹⁸O waters were channeled along the detachment fault. (3) Meteoric-hydrothermal activity along the Valkyr shear zone postdates ductile deformation and was associated with the emplacement of the Coryell plutons in the upper plate. The δ¹⁸O values of quartz (7.6–11.0‰) and feldspar (0.0–8.6‰) from the Valkyr shear zone define a much shallower array in δ-δ space (slope = 2.3) than those at the Slocan Lake detachment fault, indicating a higher temperature and/or longer lived episode of hydrothermal activity. The geographic distribution of pronounced disequilibrium δ¹⁸O effects in Coryell quartz (5.8–8.2‰) and feldspar (−4.4 to +7.4‰) indicates that meteoric-hydrothermal activity was most intense along inferred coeval extensional fracture zones that lie beneath Arrow Lake. This modeling suggests that transfer zones that accommodate deformation between detachment faults may be a very attractive exploration setting for lode-type mineral deposits.

Additional Information

This research was supported by National Science Foundation grants EAR-90-19190, EAR-93-17036, and EAR-97-25811, and Geological Society of America grant 4951-92. We thank S. Carr, P. Larson, B. Nesbitt, R. Parrish, M. Peters, L. T. Silver, B. Wernicke, and S. M. Wickham for discussions, and D. Clemens-Knott and C. Gazis for help in the laboratory. We also thank G. Beaudoin and B. Taylor for insightful comments about our previously published research that led to our analysis of interactions between the various kinds of fluids involved in detachment fault-related hydrothermal systems, and Mark Hannington and two anonymous reviewers for comments and suggestions that greatly improved this manuscript.

Additional details

August 22, 2023
October 24, 2023