High Lake gossan deposit: An Arctic analogue for ancient Martian surficial processes?

L. West, D. J. McGown, Tullis C. Onstott, R. V. Morris, P. Suchecki, L. M. Pratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Gossan samples collected during a reconnaissance expedition to High Lake in Nunavut, Canada, were analyzed to determine their mineral components and to define parameters for the geochemical environment in which they formed. The gossan represents a natural acid drainage site in an arctic environment that serves as an analogue to the conditions under which sulfate and Fe-oxide possibly formed on Mars. Rock and soil samples were taken from three different outcrops and analyzed using XRD, SEM/EDS and Mössbauer. Two main mineral assemblages were observed. The first assemblage, which was found primarily in samples from the first outcrop, contained chlorite, Fe-phosphates, Fe-oxide and quartz. The second assemblage, which was found at the second and third outcrops, was primarily quartz, mica and jarosite. One sample (G41), containing Fe-oxide, jarosite and gypsum, appears to be transitional between a Fe-oxide dominant assemblage to a jarosite dominant assemblage. Thermodynamic equilibria predicts that the gossan pore water should range from mildly acidic, relatively sulfate-poor (pH 3-6; SO4 <1000 mg l-1) to highly acidic and relatively sulfate-rich (pH 0.5-3; SO4 >3000 mg l-1) for the first and second mineral assemblages, respectively. Kinetic reaction models indicate that the second assemblage replaces the first during evaporation or freezing of water. Compared to acid mine drainage (AMD) sites located in temperate regions, the arctic High Lake gossan lacks diversity in sulfate species and has smaller diagenetic crystal sizes. The smaller crystal size may reflect the slower reaction rates at colder temperatures and the seasonal water saturation. These initial results indicate that the High Lake gossan deposit does record mechanisms for which minerals like hematite, goethite, gypsum and jarosite, which are found on Mars, can form in an environment that involves seasonal water occurrence in a cold climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1302-1311
Number of pages10
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Volume57
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

Keywords

  • Arctic
  • Gossan
  • Mars analogue
  • Mineralogy
  • Mössbauer

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