Base Metal Sulfide Mineralization in Lower Carboniferous Strata, Northwest Ireland


Zn-Pb sulfide mineralization at Abbeytown mine and Twigspark quarry comprise the only known carbonate-hosted base metal sulfide deposits in the Sligo syncline, northwest Ireland. Limestone sedimentation occurred uniformly throughout the region during the Early Carboniferous (Mississippian) as observed by field relationships and lithofacies; however, petrographic and stable isotope evidence indicate that host-rock dolomitization occurred under different conditions at localities to the west and east of the Ox Mountains inlier, suggesting significant uplift and geologic isolation of these areas prior to dolomitization. Localized fluid flow systems are thought to be responsible for sulfide mineralization and associated epigenetic carbonate cements. West of the Ox Mountains inlier at Abbeytown, evidence of three geochemically distinct fluids are observed: (1) a lower-temperature, lower-salinity fluid (70°-130°C, 4-9 wt.% equiv. NaCl); (2) a lower-temperature, higher-salinity fluid (70°-140°C, 15-24 wt.% equiv. NaCl); and (3) a higher-temperature, moderate-salinity fluid (165°-220°C, 8-14 wt.% equiv. NaCl). Similar fluid types were observed at the Twigspark deposit. The source of the higher-salinity fluid is likely seawater evaporated to near the point of halite precipitation. The higher-temperature fluid is thought to have been derived from deep circulation of basinal brines. It is speculated that mixing of the higher-salinity fluid with the high-temperature fluid was vital for ore formation at Abbeytown because fluid inclusions in sphalerite have homogenization temperatures and salinity values that fall along a mixing trajectory of these end member fluids. Also, areas where the high-salinity end member fluid is absent are barren of sulfides. Less complex fluid systems are indicated for sites east of the Ox Mountains inlier where no sulfide mineralization was observed. Data from base metal sulfide prospects in northwest Ireland indicate no connection with the regionally extensive flow system thought to be responsible for Zn-Pb deposits throughout the Irish Midlands.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Abbeytown; Carbonate-hosted; Fluid Inclusion; Ireland; Sulfide Mineralization; Carbonation; Isotopes; Landforms; Lead; Lead Zinc Deposits; Mineralogy; Mixing; Salinity Measurement; Seawater; Sodium Chloride; Sulfur Compounds; Zinc; Zinc Sulfide; Base Metal; Carbonate; Carboniferous; Dolomitization; Host Rock; Limestone; Mineralization; Ore Deposit; Petrography; Sedimentation; Stable Isotope; Sulfide; Connacht; County Sligo; Ireland; Sligo [County Sligo]; Fluid Inclusions

Geographic Coverage

Northwest Ireland

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2010 Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2010