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A Theoretical Analysis of Hydrothermal Fluid Flow and SEDEX Ore Mineralization in the Hypersaline Red Sea Rift (Atlantis II Deep)

A Theoretical Analysis of Hydrothermal Fluid Flow and SEDEX Ore Mineralization in the Hypersaline Red Sea Rift (Atlantis II Deep)

The Red Sea-Gulf of Aden area is one of the best examples of crustal extension, formation of oceanic crust and interaction of magmas with brines in rifted continental crust. The first hydrothermal ore deposit to be discovered on the sea floor was the Atlantis II Deep in the Red Sea and early studies of this deposit had a major influence on the economic geology community and on the geochemical understanding of hydrothermal ore deposits elsewhere on the sea floor. Metalliferous sediment has accumulated within a pull-apart basin that forms a closed depression in the Red Sea rift. A brine pool occupies the associated graben structure, which is actively spreading and floored by oceanic tholeiite basalt. The Atlantis II Deep is estimated to contain about 227 Mt of metalliferous sediment, including 92 Mt @ 2% Zn, 0.4% Cu, 41 g/t Ag, and 0.5 g/t Au (Bäcker, 1976; Guney et al., 1988).

In this study, a a unique theoretical study is proposed which aims to investigate: (1) large-scale fluid flow within the Red Sea rift, (2) coupled reactive transport of brine evolution and discharge in the Red Sea deeps, and (3) the formation and evolution of the brine pool constrained by existing field data as well as theoretical constraints. The goal is to quantify the first-order linkages between fluid flow and the geochemical processes of modern rifting, recent metal accumulation and ancient SEDEX ore mineralization. This study will help refine the understanding of the origin of ancient sediment-hosted stratiform ores, by testing conceptual models for brine flow, the role of crustal heating and the geochemical processes controlling mineralization in a hypersaline modern rift environment. Results will also provide a foundation for future ship-based exploration of the Red Sea rift, and supply targets for IODP studies prior to sea floor drilling.


Kontakt: schardt@iml.rwth-aachen.de


Bäcker, H., and Richter, H., 1973, Die rezente hydrothermal-sedimentäre Lagerstätte Atlantis II-Tief in Roten Meer: Geologische Rundschau, 62, 697-740.

Guney, M., Nawab, Z., and Marhoun, M.A., 1988, Atlantis II Deep’s metal reserves and their evaluation: Offshore Technology Conference Houston, 3, 33