Letter | Published:

Alternative interpretation of sulphur isotope ratios in the McArthur lead-zinc-silver deposit

Naturevolume 247pages535537 (1974) | Download Citation



SMITH and Croxford1 have reported important new measurements of variations among the isotopes of sulphur in the enigmatic stratiform sulphide deposit at McArthur River, Northern Territory, Australia. The data place severe constraints on processes capable of forming the deposit, and Smith and Croxford interpret them to indicate a syn-sedi-mentary origin with sulphur supplied from two separate sources—one for pyrite and one for galena and sphalerite. We suggest that Smith and Croxford have misinterpreted several important aspects of their data and that they have thereby been led to erroneous conclusions. The isotopic data do not really support their preferred models of mineralisation. Rather, they support the kind of single-sulphur source model demonstrated for many other stratiform base-metal sulphide deposits, in which dissolution of pre-existing pyrite by a circulating, metal-rich but sulphur-poor brine is followed by deposition of base-metal sulphides. Brines of the kind capable of forming such deposits have been reported from the Salton Sea geothermal field2, from the Cheleken region in Russia3, in oil fields4 and in fluid inclusions5. The most complete elucidation of such a model is that by Brown6 for the White Pine deposit in Michigan but the applicability of the model to many deposits has been pointed out by White7 and others.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Smith, J. W., and Croxford, N. J. W., Nature phys. Sci., 245, 10 (1973).

  2. 2

    White, D. E., Anderson, E. T., and Grubbs, D. K., Science. N.Y., 139, 919 (1963).

  3. 3

    Lebedev, L. M., Dokl. Akad. Nauk. SSSR (Engl. Trans. Earth Sci. Sect.), 174, 173 (1967).

  4. 4

    Hall, W. E., and Friedman, I., Econ. Geol., 58, 886 (1963).

  5. 5

    Czamanske, G. K., Roedder, E., and Burns, F. C., Science, N.Y,. 140, 401 (1963).

  6. 6

    Brown, A. C., Econ. Geol., 66, 543 (1971).

  7. 7

    White, D. E., Econ. Geol., 63, 301 (1968).

  8. 8

    Kajiwara, Y., and Krouse, H. R., Can. J. Earth Sci., 8, 1397 (1971).

  9. 9

    Czamanske, G. K., and Rye, R. O., Econ. Geol. (in the press).

  10. 10

    Kemp, A. L. W., and Thode, H. G., Geochim. cosmochim. Acta, 32, 7l (1968).

  11. 11

    Sakai, H., Geochem. J., 2, 29 (1968).

  12. 12

    Croxford, N. J. W., and Jephcott, S., Proc. Australas. Inst. Min. Metall., 243, 1 (1972).

  13. 13

    Cotton, R. E., in Geology of Australian Ore Deposits (edit. by McAndrew, J.), 197 (Min. Metall. Congress, Melbourne, 1965).

  14. 14

    Croxford, N. J. W., Proc. Australas. Inst. Min. Metall., 226, 97 (1968).

Download references

Author information


  1. Department of Geology and Geophysics, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, 06520

    •  & DANNY M. RYE


  1. Search for NEIL WILLIAMS in:

  2. Search for DANNY M. RYE in:

About this article

Publication history



Issue Date



Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.