Gahnite composition as a means to fingerprint metamorphosed massive sulfide and non-sulfide zinc deposits

Joshua J. O'Brien, Paul G. Spry*, Graham S. Teale, Simon E. Jackson, Alan E. Koenig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Gahnite occurs in and around metamorphosed massive sulfide (e.g., Broken Hill-type Pb-Zn-Ag (BHT), volcanogenic massive sulfide Cu-Zn-Pb-Au-Ag (VMS), sedimentary exhalative Pb-Zn (SEDEX)), and non-sulfide zinc (NSZ) deposits. In addition to occurring in situ, gahnite occurs as a resistate indicator mineral in unconsolidated sediments (e.g., glacial till) surrounding such deposits. The spatial association between gahnite and metamorphosed ore deposits has resulted in its use as an empirical exploration guide to ore. Major and trace element compositions of gahnite from BHT, NSZ, SEDEX, and VMS deposits are used here to develop geochemical fingerprints for each deposit type.

A classification tree diagram, using a combination of six discrimination plots, is presented here to identify the provenance of detrital gahnite in greenfield and brownfield terranes, which can be used as an exploration guide to metamorphosed massive sulfide and non-sulfide zinc deposits. The composition of gahnite in BHT deposits is discriminated from gahnite in SEDEX and VMS deposits on the basis of plots of Mg versus V, and Co versus V. Gahnite in SEDEX deposits can be distinguished from that in VMS deposits using plots of Co versus V, Mn versus Ti, and Co versus Ti. In the Sterling Hill NSZ deposit, gahnite contains higher concentrations of Fe3+ and Cd, and lower amounts of Al, Mg, and Co than gahnite in BHT, SEDEX, and VMS deposits. Plots of Co versus Cd, and Al versus Mg distinguish gahnite in the Sterling Hill NSZ deposit from the other types of deposits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-61
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Geochemical Exploration
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Gahnite
  • Trace elements
  • Metamorphosed sulfides
  • Exploration


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