Submarine Magmatic-Hydrothermal Systems at the Monowai Volcanic Centre, Kermadec Arc Public Deposited

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  • The Monowai volcanic centre (MVC) is located at the mid-point along the ~2530 km long Tonga-Kermadec arc system, is probably the most hydrothermally active submarine volcanic system globally. The MVC is comprised of a large elongate caldera (Monowai caldera, 7.9 x 5.7 km; 35 km²; depth to caldera floor is 1590 m), which has formed within an older caldera some 84 km² in area. To the south of the nested caldera system is a large composite volcano, Monowai cone, which rises to within ~ 100 m of the sea surface and has been volcanically active for at least several decades. Despite the large size, mafic volcanic rocks dominate the MVC; basalts are the most common rock type recovered; less common are basaltic andesites and andesites. Hydrothermal plume mapping during the 2004 NZAPLUME III cruise showed at least three major hydrothermal systems associated with the caldera and cone. Monowai cone has hydrothermal venting from the summit. This summit plume is gas-rich and acidic; plume samples show a pH shift of -2.00 pH units, δ³He up to 358 ‰, H₂S concentrations up to 32 μM and CH₄ concentrations up to 900 nM. The summit plume is also metal-rich with elevated total dissolvable Fe (TDFe up to 4200 nM), TDMn (up to 412 nM), and TDFe/TDMn (up to 20.4). Monowai caldera has a major hydrothermal vent system with plumes extending from ~ 1000 to 1400 m depth. The caldera plume has lower values for TDFe, although ranges to higher TDMn concentrations than the summit plume, and is relatively gas-poor (no H₂S detected, pH shift of -0.06 pH units, CH₄ concentrations up to 26 nM). Hydrothermal vents have been observed associated with prominent basaltic andesite ridges (Mussel Ridge) proximal to the southwest wall of the caldera (1025 – 1171 m depth). However, the composition of the hydrothermal plumes in the caldera are different to the vents, indicating that the source of the caldera plumes is at greater depth and is more metal-rich and therefore likely higher temperature. Minor plumes detected as light scattering anomalies down the northern flank of Monowai caldera most likely represent resuspension of volcanic debris. Particulate samples from both the cone sites and the caldera site are enriched in Al, Ti, Ca, Mg, Si, and S, with the cone summit plume especially enriched in K, As, W and Cu, Pb, Zn. The elevated Ti and Al suggest acidic water-rock reactions and intense high-sulfidation alteration of the host volcanic rocks. Observations from submersible dives with Pisces V in 2005 and the remotely operated vehicle ROPOS in 2007 of Mussel Ridge indicate numerous low temperature vents (< 60°C), with a large biomass of vent-associated fauna, in particular large accumulations of the mussel Bathymodiolus sp. and the tubeworm Lamellibrachia sp. We interpret the Monowai volcanic centre as possessing a robust high-sulfidation magmatic-hydrothermal system, with significant differences in the style and composition of venting at the cone and caldera sites. At Monowai cone, the large shifts in pH, elevated TDFe and TDFe/TDMn, and H₂S-, CH₄- and ³He-rich nature of the plume fluids coupled with elevated Ti, P, V, S and Al in the particulates indicates significant magmatic volatile ± metal contributions to the hydrothermal system and aggressive acidic water-rock interaction. By contrast, Monowai caldera has low TDFe/TDMn in hydrothermal plumes; however, end-member vent fluid compositions, combined with presence of alunite, sulfide minerals and native sulfur in samples from Mussel Ridge suggest recent acid volatile-rich venting and active Fe-sulfide formation in the subsurface, and the potential for the presence of significant SMS mineralization.
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  • Leybourne, M. I., Schwarz-Schampera, U., de Ronde, C. E. J., Baker, E. T. Faure, K., Walker, S. L. ... Wright, I. C. (2012, December) Submarine Magmatic-Hydrothermal Systems at the Monowai Volcanic Center, Kermadec Arc. Economic Geology, 107(8), 1669-1694. doi:10.2113/econgeo.107.8.1669
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