The University of Arizona

A case study of impact-induced hydrothermal activity: The Haughton impact structure, Devon Island, Canadian High Arctic

Gordon R. Osinski, Pascal Lee, John Parnell, John G. Spray, Martin Baron


The well-preserved state and excellent exposure at the 39 Ma Haughton impact structure, 23 km in diameter, allows a clearer picture to be made of the nature and distribution of hydrothermal deposits within mid-size complex impact craters. A moderate- to low-temperature hydrothermal system was generated at Haughton by the interaction of groundwaters with the hot impact melt breccias that filled the interior of the crater. Four distinct settings and styles of hydrothermal mineralization are recognized at Haughton: a) vugs and veins within the impact melt breccias, with an increase in intensity of alteration towards the base; b) cementation of brecciated lithologies in the interior of the central uplift; c) intense veining around the heavily faulted and fractured outer margin of the central uplift; and d) hydrothermal pipe structures or gossans and mineralization along fault surfaces around the faulted crater rim. Each setting is associated with a different suite of hydrothermal minerals that were deposited at different stages in the development of the hydrothermal system. Minor, early quartz precipitation in the impact melt breccias was followed by the deposition of calcite and marcasite within cavities and fractures, plus minor celestite, barite, and fluorite. This occurred at temperatures of at least 200 °C and down to 100-120 °C. Hydrothermal circulation through the faulted crater rim with the deposition of calcite, quartz, marcasite, and pyrite, occurred at similar temperatures. Quartz mineralization within breccias of the interior of the central uplift occurred in two distinct episodes (~250 down to 90 °C, and <60 °C). With continued cooling (<90 °C), calcite and quartz were precipitated in vugs and veins within the impact melt breccias. Calcite veining around the outer margin of the central uplift occurred at temperatures of ~150 °C down to <60 °C. Mobilization of hydrocarbons from the country rocks occurred during formation of the higher temperature calcite veins (>80 °C). Appreciation of the structural features of impact craters has proven to be key to understanding the distribution of hydrothermal deposits at Haughton.


Geothermometry;Haughton impact structure;Hydrothermal deposits;Impact craters;Fluid inclusions

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