, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 76-99
Date: 12 Apr 2005

The development of volcanic hosted massive sulfide and barite–gold orebodies on Wetar Island, Indonesia

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Abstract

Wetar Island is composed of Neogene volcanic rocks and minor oceanic sediments and forms part of the Inner Banda Arc. The island preserves precious metal-rich volcanogenic massive sulfide and barite deposits, which produced approximately 17 metric tonnes of gold. The polymetallic massive sulfides are dominantly pyrite (locally arsenian), with minor chalcopyrite which are cut by late fractures infilled with covellite, chalcocite, tennantite–tetrahedrite, enargite, bornite and Fe-poor sphalerite. Barite orebodies are developed on the flanks and locally overly the massive sulfides. These orebodies comprise friable barite and minor sulfides, cemented by a series of complex arsenates, oxides, hydroxides and sulfate, with gold present as <10 μm free grains. Linear and pipe-like structures comprising barite and iron-oxides beneath the barite deposits are interpreted as feeder structures to the barite mineralization. Hydrothermal alteration around the orebodies is zoned and dominated by illite–kaolinite–smectite assemblages; however, local alunite and pyrophyllite are indicative of late acidic, oxidizing hydrothermal fluids proximal to mineralization. Altered footwall volcanic rocks give an illite K–Ar age of 4.7±0.16 Ma and a 40Ar/39Ar age of 4.93±0.21 Ma. Fluid inclusion data suggest that hydrothermal fluid temperatures were around 250–270°C, showed no evidence of boiling, with a mean salinity of 3.2 wt% equivalent NaCl. The δ34S composition of sulfides ranges between +3.3‰ and +11.7‰ and suggests a significant contribution of sulfur from the underlying volcanic edifice. The δ34S barite data vary between +22.4‰ and +31.0‰, close to Miocene seawater sulfate. Whole rock 87Sr/86Sr analyses of unaltered volcanic rocks (0.70748–0.71106) reflect contributions from subducted continental material in their source region. The 87Sr/86Sr barite data (0.7076–0.7088) indicate a dominant Miocene seawater component to the hydrothermal system. The mineral deposits formed on the flanks of a volcanic edifice at depths of ~2 km. Spectacular sulfide mounds showing talus textures are localized onto faults, which provided the main pathways for high-temperature hydrothermal fluids and the development of associated stockworks. The orebodies were covered and preserved by post-mineralization chert, gypsum, Globigerina-bearing limestone, lahars, subaqueous debris flows and pyroclastics rocks.