The Bent Hill massive sulfide deposit and ODP Mound deposit in Middle Valley at the northernmost end of the Juan de Fuca Ridge are two of the largest modern seafloor hydrothermal deposits yet explored. Trace metal concentrations of sulfide minerals, determined by laser-ablation ICP-MS, were used in conjunction with mineral paragenetic studies and thermodynamic calculations to deduce the history of fluid-mineral reactions during sulfide deposition. Detailed analyses of the distribution of metals in sulfides indicate significant shifts in the physical and chemical conditions responsible for the trace element variability observed in these sulfide deposits. Trace elements (Mn, Co, Ni, As, Se, Ag, Cd, Sb, Pb, and Bi) analyzed in a representative suite of 10 thin sections from these deposits suggest differences in conditions and processes of hydrothermal alteration resulting in mass transfer of metals from the center of the deposits to the margins. Enrichments of some trace metals (Pb, Sb, Cd, Ag) in sphalerite at the margins of the deposits are best explained by dissolution/reprecipitation processes consistent with secondary remineralization. Results of reaction-path models clarify mechanisms of mass transfer during remineralization of sulfide deposits due to mixing of hydrothermal fluids with seawater. Model results are consistent with patterns of observed mineral paragenesis and help to identify conditions (pH, redox, temperature) that may be responsible for variations in trace metal concentrations in primary and secondary minerals. Differences in trace metal distributions throughout a single deposit and between nearby deposits at Middle Valley can be linked to the history of metal mobilization within this active hydrothermal system that may have broad implications for sulfide ore formation in other sedimented and unsedimented ridge systems.
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We thank T. Pulsipher for her time and expertise; I. Ridley, F. Lichte, and P. Aruscavage at the USGS, Denver for the use of their analytical facilities; I. Ridley and K. Kelley for their comments; the shipboard scientific party from ODP Leg 169; the Texas A&M Research Foundation and the National Science Foundation for support through grant 169-F000475-BA133; and M. Solomon, and several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.