Geochemistry of minerals at DSDP Hole 70-504B

Hole 504B, drilled into the 5.9 Ma crust of the southern flank of the Costa Rica Rift, tapped a hydrothermal system in its conductive stage. Three alteration zones were encountered along the 561.5 meters of basement drilled. The upper alteration zone, 274.5 to 584.5 meters below the seafloor (BSF), is characterized by the presence of color zonation in which red halos are located between dark gray inner rock portions and dark gray outer bands. The red halos are characterized by an abundance of iddingsite, and they have higher K2O contents and Fe3+/FeT ratios, but lower SiO2 contents, than the adjacent dark gray inner zones. The dark gray outer bands are characterized by the presence of celadonite-nontronite. Saponite is omnipresent in these three alteration bands. Phillipsite is the only zeolite that occurs in the upper alteration zone. The upper alteration zone is interpreted as being the result of low-temperature alteration, with large amounts of cold oxygenated seawater percolating through the upper ocean crust. In the upper alteration zone, the formation of red halos was both preceded and followed by formation of dark gray outer bands. Then followed formation of dark gray cores. The lower alteration zone (584.5-835.5 m BSF) is characterized by the absence of color zonation, the downward-increasing abundance of pyrite and saponite, and the presence of quartz, talc, and calcite. The chemical changes (downhole MgO enrichment and concomitant CaO depletion) observed in the basalts of the lower alteration zone are thought to result from reactions of oceanic basalts with evolved seawater (i.e., solutions derived from seawater that has already reacted with ocean crust), which is thus depleted in oxygen, potassium, and radiogenic strontium. This alteration process, which was responsible for saponite formation in both the upper and lower alteration zones, was rock dominated, and it took place under suboxic to anoxic conditions during a second stage of alteration. Reaction temperatures could have progressively increased with depth. There is also a zeolitic zone that essentially coincides with the lower part of the upper alteration zone (between 528.5 and 563 m BSF). The host rock adjacent to veins of zeolite exhibits a greenish discoloration due to the intensive replacement of the igneous minerals. The replacement minerals result in significant increases in the bulk rock K2O, MgO, CaO, CO2, and H2O+ contents. The solutions circulating along the newly opened fissures had high Ca activity, and minerals probably precipitated in these fissures at 60°C or 110°C. These hydrothermal solutions circulated later than those responsible for the formation of the minerals that characterize the upper and lower alteration zones.

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