Distribution, mineralogy and geochemistry of silica-iron exhalites and related rocks from the Tyrone Igneous Complex: Implications for VMS mineralization in Northern Ireland

Steven P. Hollis*, Mark R. Cooper, Richard J. Herrington, Stephen Roberts, Garth Earls, Alicia Verbeeten, Stephen J. Piercey, Sandy M. Archibald

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Iron formations, hematitic cherts (jaspers), 'tuffites', silica-iron exhalites and other metalliferous chemical sedimentary rocks are important stratigraphic marker horizons in a number of volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) districts worldwide, forming during episodes of regional hydrothermal activity. The VMS prospective ca. 484-464. Ma Tyrone Igneous Complex of Northern Ireland represents a structurally dissected arc-ophiolite complex that was accreted to the composite margin of Laurentia during the Grampian orogeny (ca. 475-465. Ma), and a potential broad correlative to the VMS-rich Buchans-Robert's Arm arc system of the Newfoundland Appalachians. Silica-iron-rich rocks occur at several stratigraphic levels in the Tyrone Igneous Complex spatially and temporally associated with rift-related basalts (e.g., Fe-Ti-rich eMORB, IAT, OIB) and zones of locally intense hydrothermal alteration. In the ca. 475-474. Ma lower Tyrone Volcanic Group, these rocks are characterized by massive, 1-5. m thick blood-red jaspers, hematitic siltstones and mudstones, and intensely silica-hematite altered tuffs and flows. Their mineralogy is dominated by quartz-hematite. ± magnetite-(chlorite-sericite. ± tremolite/actinolite), with Fe concentrations rarely exceeding 10. wt.%. Relict textures (including the presence of coalesced spherules of silica-iron oxides) in rocks exposed at Tanderagee NW, Creggan Lough and Tory's Hole are indicative of seafloor exhalation, whereas replacement of the original volcanic stratigraphy is evident to varying degrees at Tanderagee, Beaghbeg and Bonnety Bush. In the structurally overlying ca. 473-469. Ma upper Tyrone Volcanic Group, chemical sedimentary rocks include recrystallized: (i) thin and laterally-restricted jaspers in thick sequences of graphitic pelite at Boheragh; and (ii) laterally-persistent sulfidic cherts and ironstones dominated by quartz-hematite-magnetite-(chlorite) or quartz-pyrite-(chlorite) in sequences of tuff at Broughderg. Compared to chemical sedimentary rocks associated with VMS deposits worldwide, their geochemical characteristics are most similar to silica-iron exhalites of the Mount Windsor Subprovince (SE Australia) and jaspers of Central Arizona, Bald Mountain (Northern Maine), the Urals, Iberian Pyrite Belt and Løkken ophiolite (Norway). Positive Eu anomalies (at Slieve Gallion and Tanderagee NW), elevated Cu + Pb + Zn, Au, Fe/Ti, Fe/Mn, Sb, Ba/Zr and Fe + Mn/Al, together with low REE, Sc, Zr and Th, are indicative of a greater hydrothermal component and potentially more VMS-proximal signatures. Based on bulk ironstone geochemistry, Bonnety Bush, Tanderagee NW-Creggan Lough, Broughderg and Drummuck (Slieve Gallion) are considered the most VMS prospective areas in the Tyrone Igneous Complex and warrant further exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-168
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of geochemical exploration
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2015


  • Exhalite
  • Grampian
  • Iron formation
  • Ironstone
  • Jasper
  • Taconic
  • Tuffite
  • VMS


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