Sedimentary Cycles and Selective Dolomitization in Limestones Hosting the Giant Navan Zinc-Lead Ore Deposit, Ireland

Exploration & Mining Geology, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1997
The Navan zinc-lead ore deposit (70 million tonnes) is hosted principally (97%) by the Meath Formation (Lower Carboniferous, Courceyan, Navan Group), comprising a lower, mainly carbonate mudstone unit, the Stackallan Member, and an upper grainstone-dominated unit. The Stackallan Member, about 60 m thick, comprises about 35 peritidal cycles including an oolitic grainstone interval. Grainstones forming the upper part of the formation, about 150 m thick, comprise at least six shallowing-upward ramp cycles. Emergence horizons are indicated by subaerial dissolution surfaces, in situ breccias, and a single palaeosol. Most dolomitization at Navan is confined to the Meath Formation. The linear dolomite body, trending NE-SW, has a flattened, laterally limited, tabular geometry in cross-section, suggesting that dolomitizing fluids initially rose vertically, cross-cutting stratigraphic and sedimentological boundaries, although fluid flow was subsequently controlled by these features. Three stages of dolomitization are indicated by textural relationships, cathodoluminescence (CL), oxygen isotopes, and fluid inclusion data. Stage 1 crystals, with generally dully luminescing cores and up to six overlying subsidiary zones, are the main replacive phase. Crystal surfaces are commonly corroded and overlain by bright stage 2 rhombs (which also form new nuclei lining molds and fractures). Three subsets of zones are present in stage 2 crystals: bright, non luminescent, and dull; these are locally separated by additional corrosion surfaces. Stage 3 comprises relatively large baroque crystals, generally dully luminescent but with up to seven sub-zones. Isotopic and fluid inclusion data suggest growth of successive stages from waters which became progressively hotter (60°–160°C).
The distribution of the ores follows the dolomite trend. Ores were precipitated between Stages 1 and 2 of dolomite growth, following Stage 2, and also during the nucleation and growth of Stage 3 crystals. Dolomitization and mineralization appear to have been temporally and genetically related. The cyclic sedimentation of the host rocks, which accentuates lithological and petrographical contrasts between depositional units, controlled dolomitization. The relationship between dolomitization and mineralization, which is closely associated with faults, provides powerful exploration criteria. The recognition of these features in limestones elsewhere in the Irish ore field may point toward unrecognized zinc-lead prospects.
Keywords: Navan zinc-lead ore deposit, Meath Formation, Mudstone, Upper grainstone-dominated unit
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