Numerical modelling of erosion and assimilation of sulfur-rich substrate by martian lava flows: Implications for the genesis of massive sulfide mineralization on Mars

Raphael J. Baumgartner, David Baratoux, Fabrice Gaillard, Marco L. Fiorentini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mantle-derived volcanic rocks on Mars display physical and chemical commonalities with mafic-ultramafic ferropicrite and komatiite volcanism on the Earth. Terrestrial komatiites are common hosts of massive sulfide mineralization enriched in siderophile-chalcophile precious metals (i.e., Ni, Cu, and the platinum-group elements). These deposits correspond to the batch segregation and accumulation of immiscible sulfide liquids as a consequence of mechanical/thermo-mechanical erosion and assimilation of sulfur-rich bedrock during the turbulent flow of high-temperature and low-viscosity komatiite lava flows. This study adopts this mineralization model and presents numerical simulations of erosion and assimilation of sulfide- and sulfate-rich sedimentary substrates during the dynamic emplacement of (channelled) mafic-ultramafic lava flows on Mars. For sedimentary substrates containing adequate sulfide proportions (e.g., 1 wt% S), our simulations suggest that sulfide supersaturation in low-temperature (< 1350 °C) flows could be attained at < 200 km distance, but may be postponed in high-temperature lavas flows (> 1400 °C). The precious-metals tenor in the derived immiscible sulfide liquids may be significantly upgraded as a result of their prolonged equilibration with large volumes of silicate melts along flow conduits. The influence of sulfate assimilation on sulfide supersaturation in martian lava flows is addressed by simulations of melt-gas equilibration in the C[sbnd]H[sbnd]O[sbnd]S fluid system. However, prolonged sulfide segregation and deposit genesis by means of sulfate assimilation appears to be limited by lava oxidation and the release of sulfur-rich gas. The identification of massive sulfide endowments on Mars is not possible from remote sensing data. Yet the results of this study aid to define regions for the potential occurrence of such mineral systems, which may be the large canyon systems Noctis Labyrinthus and Valles Marineris, or the Hesperian channel systems of Mars’ highlands (e.g., Kasei Valles), most of which have been periodically draped by mafic-ultramafic lavas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-274
Number of pages18
JournalIcarus
Volume296
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017

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