Although seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits are crucially important metal resources that contain high-grade metals such as copper, lead, and zinc, their internal structures and generation mechanisms remain unclear. This study obtained detailed near-seafloor images of electrical resistivity in a hydrothermal field off Okinawa, southwestern Japan, using deep-towed marine electrical resistivity tomography. The image clarified a semi-layered resistivity structure, interpreted as SMS deposits exposed on the seafloor, and another deep-seated SMS layer at about 40-m depth below the seafloor. The images reinforce our inference of a new mechanism of SMS evolution: Upwelling hydrothermal fluid is trapped under less-permeable cap rock. The deeper embedded SMS accumulates there. Then hydrothermal fluids expelled on the seafloor form exposed SMS deposits.
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