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Bedded jaspers of the Ordovician Løkken ophiolite, Norway: seafloor deposition and diagenetic maturation of hydrothermal plume-derived silica-iron gels


Sedimentary beds of jasper (red hematitic chert) in the Ordovician Løkken ophiolite of Norway are closely associated with volcanogenic massive sulphide (VMS) deposits. The jaspers occur in the immediate hangingwall and laterally peripheral to the large Løkken (25–30 Mt) and small Høydal (0.1 Mt) VMS deposits, and are exposed discontinuously for several kilometres along strike. Massive or laminated types predominate; jasper-sulphide debris-flow deposits are also abundant near VMS deposits. The jaspers contain hematite-rich laminae showing soft-sediment deformation structures and microtextural evidence that record the presence of a colloidal precursor and an origin as gels. Early textures include: (1) straight or curved chains of hematitic filaments 3–10 µm in diameter and 20–100 µm long; (2) branching networks of 15–25 µm-thick, tubular structures surrounded by cryptocrystalline hematite and filled with quartz and euhedral hematite; (3) small (up to 10 µm) spherules composed of cryptocrystalline hematite and silica; and (4) up to 50 µm silica spherules with hematitic cores. The small filaments seem to have been deposited in varying proportions in the primary laminae, possibly together with hematitic and siliceous microspheroids. Diagenetic changes are represented by polygonal syneresis cracks, and the presence of cryptocrystalline (originally opaline) silica, chalcedony, quartz, carbonate and cryptocrystalline hematite and/or goethite forming botryoidal masses and spheroids <10 µm to 5 mm in diameter. Coarser euhedral grains of quartz, carbonate, and hematite are integral parts of these textures. Bleached, silica-rich jaspers preserve only small relics of fine-grained hematite-rich domains, and locally contain sparse pockets composed of coarse euhedral hematite±epidote.

The jaspers are interpreted to record colloidal fallout from one or more hydrothermal plumes, followed by maturation (ageing) of an Si-Fe-oxyhydroxide gel, on and beneath the Ordovician sea floor. Small hematitic filaments in the jaspers reflect bacteria-catalysed oxidation of Fe2+ within the plume. The larger tubular filaments resulted from either microbial activity or inorganic self-organized mineral growth of Fe-oxyhydroxide within the Si-Fe-oxyhydroxide gel after deposition on the sea floor, prior to more advanced maturation of the gel as represented by the spheroidal and botryoidal silica-hematite textures. Bleaching and hematite±epidote growth are interpreted to reflect heat and fluids generated during deposition of basaltic sheet flows on top of the gels.

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We thank R.A. Koski, J.M. Hammarstrom, and R.J. Herrington for thorough and constructive reviews of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Tor Grenne.

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Grenne, T., Slack, J.F. Bedded jaspers of the Ordovician Løkken ophiolite, Norway: seafloor deposition and diagenetic maturation of hydrothermal plume-derived silica-iron gels. Miner Deposita 38, 625–639 (2003).

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  • Jasper
  • Gels
  • Hydrothermal
  • Diagenesis
  • Volcanogenic massive sulphide deposits