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Indium-bearing sulfides from the Hämmerlein skarn deposit, Erzgebirge, Germany: evidence for late-stage diffusion of indium into sphalerite

Abstract

At the Hämmerlein skarn deposit, located in the western Erzgebirge (Germany), a major cassiterite-dominated Sn mineralization stage is spatially associated with a younger Zn-Cu-In sulfide mineralization stage. In this contribution, we provide the first detailed description of the Zn-Cu-In sulfide mineralization stage, based on field geological observations combined with detailed petrographic studies and electron probe microanalysis data. Indium-rich sulfide mineralization occurs as irregular, semi-massive lenses or as infill of short, discontinuous veinlets that crosscut the cassiterite-bearing skarn assemblage. Indium- and Cu-rich sphalerite and roquesite are found to be closely associated with In-bearing chalcopyrite. The highest In concentrations in sphalerite occur at the rims and along cracks of sphalerite grains. The distribution resembles diffusion profiles, suggesting that the In enrichment is due to an hydrothermal overprint that postdates the initial formation of both sphalerite and chalcopyrite. Textural relations illustrate that the diffusion fronts in sphalerite grains are thicker where they are in contact to anhedral masses of hematite and magnetite. Our observations suggest that In enrichment in sphalerite at the Hämmerlein skarn deposit is due to the decomposition of In-bearing chalcopyrite. The resultant release of Fe led to the formation of hematite and magnetite, whereas Cu and In were incorporated into sphalerite along grain boundaries and micro fractures. Incorporation into the sphalerite lattice took place by coupled substitution of Cu+ + In3+ ↔ 2Zn2+, suggesting that the concurrent availability of Cu and In may be an essential factor to enrich In in sphalerite in hydrothermal ore-forming environments.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Nigel Cook and Erik Jonsson for their constructive comments that improved a former version of this manuscript significantly. H. Albert Gilg and Bernd Lehmann are thanked for the editorial handling. We sincerely thank Marco Roscher and Lars Starke (Saxore Bergbau GmbH) for the support with the sample collection; Frank Weißflog and the Besucherbergwerk Zinnkammern Pöhla e. V. for access to the underground mine; Max Frenzel, Tom Járóka, and Reinhard Kleeberg for insightful discussions; and Andreas Bartzsch, Roland Würkert, and Michael Stoll for sample preparation. The geographic map of Germany is based on data generated with generic mapping tools, GMT 5 (https://www.soest.hawaii.edu/gmt/).

Funding

This work was funded by the Biohydrometallurgical Center for Strategic Elements (BHMZ) of the Dr. Erich-Krüger-Foundation, Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg.

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Correspondence to Matthias E. Bauer.

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Editorial handling: A. Gilg

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EPMA element distribution maps of a large sphalerite IIc grain (Sp IIc) that is surrounded by chalcopyrite (Ccp) and Fe oxides (magnetite and hematite); resolution 1 pixel ≙ 3 µm. a Zn EDS signal with position of a high resolution beam scan (2-6_10b Map 3-a) in e–g. b Fe Kα X-ray signal. c In Lα X-ray signal. d Cu Kα X-ray signal. e Cu Lα X-ray signal, resolution 1 pixel ≙ 170 nm. f In Lα X-ray signal. g Fe Lα X-ray signal (GIF 748 kb).

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Bauer, M.E., Seifert, T., Burisch, M. et al. Indium-bearing sulfides from the Hämmerlein skarn deposit, Erzgebirge, Germany: evidence for late-stage diffusion of indium into sphalerite. Miner Deposita 54, 175–192 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00126-017-0773-1

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Keywords

  • Indium
  • Sphalerite
  • Chalcopyrite
  • Roquesite
  • Diffusion
  • Skarn