Classification of VMS deposits: lessons from the South Uralides

Richard Herrington*, Valeriy Maslennikov, Victor Zaykov, Igor Seravkin, Alexander Kosarev, Bernd Buschmann, Jean Jacques Orgeval, Nicola Holland, Svetlana Tesalina, Paolo Nimis, Robin Armstrong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


VMS deposits of the South Urals developed within the evolving Urals palaeo-ocean between Silurian and Late Devonian times. Arc-continent collision between Baltica and the Magnitogorsk Zone (arc) in the south-western Urals effectively terminated submarine volcanism in the Magnitogorsk Zone with which the bulk of the VMS deposits are associated. The majority of the Urals VMS deposits formed within volcanic-dominated sequences in deep seawater settings. Preservation of macro and micro vent fauna in the sulphide bodies is both testament to the seafloor setting for much of the sulphides but also the exceptional degree of preservation and lack of metamorphic overprint of the deposits and host rocks. The deposits in the Urals have previously been classified in terms of tectonic setting, host rock associations and metal ratios in line with recent tectono-stratigraphic classifications. In addition to these broad classes, it is clear that in a number of the Urals settings, an evolution of the host volcanic stratigraphy is accompanied by an associated change in the metal ratios of the VMS deposits, a situation previously discussed, for example, in the Noranda district of Canada. Two key structural settings are implicated in the South Urals. The first is seen in a preserved marginal allochthon west of the Main Urals Fault where early arc tholeiites host Cu-Zn mineralization in deposits including Yaman Kasy, which is host to the oldest macro vent fauna assembly known to science. The second tectonic setting for the South Urals VMS is the Magnitogorsk arc where study has highlighted the presence of a preserved early forearc assemblage, arc tholeiite to calc-alkaline sequences and rifted arc bimodal tholeiite sequences. The boninitc rocks of the forearc host Cu-(Zn) and Cu-Co VMS deposits, the latter hosted in fragments within the Main Urals Fault Zone (MUFZ) which marks the line of arc-continent collision in Late Devonian times. The arc tholeiites host Cu-Zn deposits with an evolution to more calc-alkaline felsic volcanic sequences matched with a change to Zn-Pb-Cu polymetallic deposits, often gold-rich. Large rifts in the arc sequence are filled by thick bimodal tholeiite sequences, themselves often showing an evolution to a more calc-alkaline nature. These thick bimodal sequences are host to the largest of the Cu-Zn VMS deposits. The exceptional degree of preservation in the Urals has permitted the identification of early seafloor clastic and hydrolytic modification (here termed halmyrolysis sensu lato) to the sulphide assemblages prior to diagenesis and this results in large-scale modification to the primary VMS body, resulting in distinctive morphological and mineralogical sub-types of sulphide body superimposed upon the tectonic association classification. It is proposed that a better classification of seafloor VMS systems is thus achievable using a three stage classification based on (a) tectonic (hence bulk volcanic chemistry) association, (b) local volcanic chemical evolution within a single edifice and (c) seafloor reworking and halmyrolysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Pages (from-to)203-237
Number of pages35
JournalOre Geology Reviews
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Classification
  • Halmyrolysis
  • South Urals
  • Tectonic setting
  • VMS
  • Volcanic chemistry


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