Gold and native copper in supergene sulphides from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge


In 1985 black smokers and massive sulphide deposits were discovered in the TAG hydrothermal field in the rift valley of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge near latitude 26°08′ N (ref. 1). Sulphide samples from chimneys and mounds were recovered by dredging at depths between 3,620 and 3,670 m. Mineralogical and chemical analyses of the samples reveal (1) primary, unaltered Zn-Fe-Cu-sulphides containing 0.8–4.0 p.p.m. Au (0.02–0.12 oz per ton) and (2) secondary Cu-rich sulphides with native copper, formed by supergene alteration of primary Cu-Fe-sulphides, containing up to 16.4 p.p.m. Au (0.48 oz per ton) as free native gold. This is the first reported occurrence of secondary enrichment of gold and copper in recent submarine sulphides. The high gold grades and native copper associated with secondary Cu-sulphides resemble occurrences in some supergene gossans overlying ancient massive sulphide deposits on land2.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Rona, P. A., Klinkhammer, G., Nelson, T. A., Trefry, J. H. & Elderfield, H. Nature 321, 33–37 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Boyle, R. W. Geol. Soc. Can. Bull. 280, 584 (1979).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Rona, P. A., Pockalny, R. A. & Thompson, G. Am. Geophys. Union Trans. Abstr. 67, 1021 (1986).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Thompson, G., Humphris, S. E., Schroeder, B., Sulanowska, M. & Rona, P. A. Can. Mineralogist 26, (in the press).

  5. 5

    Thompson, G., Humphris, S. E. & Rona, P. A. Geol. Soc. Amer. Abstr. 18, 772 (1986).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Schroeder, B., Thompson, G., Humphris, S. E., Sulanowska, M. & Rona, P. A. EOS 67, 1022 (1986).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Hannington, M. D., Peter, J. M. & Scott, S. D. Econ. Geol. 81, 1867–1883 (1986).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Andrew, R. L. Miner. Sci. Engng 12, 193–215 (1980).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Blain, C. F. & Andrew, R. L. Miner. Sci. Engng 9, 119–150 (1977).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Thornber, M. R. Chem. Geol. 53, 279–301 (1985).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Mann, A. W. Econ. Geol. 79, 38–49 (1984).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Webster, J. G. Geochim. cosmochim. Acta 50, 1837–1845 (1986).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Cornelius, K. D. Econ. Geol. 64, 885–902 (1969).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Taube, A. Econ. Geol. 81, 1322–1340 (1986).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Bear, L. M. Cyprus Geol Surv. Bull. 1, 208 (1963).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Bischoff, J. M., Rosenbauer, R. J., Aruscavage, P. J., Baedecker, P. A. & Crock, J. G. Econ. Geol. 78, 1711–1720 (1983).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hannington, M., Thompson, G., Rona, P. et al. Gold and native copper in supergene sulphides from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Nature 333, 64–66 (1988).

Download citation

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.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing