Space-time distribution of manganese ore deposits along the southern margin of the South China Block, in the context of Palaeo-Tethyan evolution

The evolution of the Palaeo-Tethys Ocean played an important role in the Palaeozoic tectono-metallogenesis in Southeast Asia, in which diverse blocks amalgamated due to its closure. Previous researches focused mostly on endogenic metallogenesis related to the evolution of the Palaeo-Tethys Ocean. However, the tectonic control on the numerous Mn ore deposits in the southwestern South China Block (SCB) developed during Palaeo-Tethys evolution is largely unknown. In this article, we review Palaeo-Tethys evolution and define its four evolutionary stages from initial opening, maturity, incipient subduction, to post-closure. This study further investigated the geology and palaeogeography of Mn ore deposits in Upper Devonian, lower Carboniferous, middle Permian, and Lower-Middle Triassic formations in the southwestern SCB. We show that each of the four Mn metallogenic episodes was a response to each of the four evolutionary stages of the Palaeo-Tethys Ocean. Wall rocks of orebodies transitioned from chert-mudstone-carbonate in the Devonian, Carboniferous, and Permian to siltstone-mudstone in Lower-Middle Triassic. The ores of the four episodes of Mn mineralization are composed primarily of rhodochrosite, manganocalcite, and rhodonite. The carbonate C–O isotope and ore trace element composition data suggest that ore-forming fluids were dominated by seafloor water with involvement of magmatic hydrothermal fluids and organic matter as well. Palaeogeography reconstructions indicate the Mn-ore deposits formed along the margins or in the centre of the abyssal basins. Despite the diverse tectonic settings of the four Mn mineralization episodes, it is proposed that the crustal sagging, restricted seafloor environment, and hydrothermal activities that occurred in the southwestern margin of SCB contributed to Mn mineralization.