Journal of


  (Formerly Journal of the Czech Geological Society)

Original Paper

Dalibor Velebil, Jiří Zachariáš

Fluid inclusion study of the Horní Luby cinnabar deposit, Saxothuringian Zone, Bohemian Massif: clues for the metamorphic remobilization of mercury

Journal of Geosciences, volume 58 (2013), issue 3, 283 - 298


The stratiform deposit of mercury at Horní Luby near Cheb (Czech Republic) is hosted by Ordovician phyllites of Vogtland-Saxony Paleozoic Unit, in the Saxothuringian Zone of the Bohemian Massif. Ore is represented by cinnabar disseminated within the phyllite and by lenticular bodies rich in massive cinnabar (lenses with a thickness of up to 1 m and length along the strike varying from less than 1 m up to 20 m). Cinnabar is accompanied by pyrite and locally also siderite. The P-T history of the mineralization was deciphered by the study of fluid inclusions. Early fluids are represented by a homogenous H2O-CO2 fluid trapped in secretion quartz. This fluid underwent several heterogenization events starting from approximately 300 °C and continued down to 200-150 °C. Metamorphic quartz of secretion origin crystallized at ~300 °C, while hydrothermal pyrite crystallized at 220-210 °C and cinnabar crystallized at 195-160 °C. The formation of the richest ore is associated with the replacement of metamorphic quartz in phyllites by the cinnabar in weakly alkaline solutions.
The cinnabar is pure phase, free of admixture (Bi, Sb, Zn, Fe, and Cu). It is accompanied by minute blebs of Hg-bearing sphalerite (11-12 wt. % Hg) that might indicate earlier presence of the zincian metacinnabar and more complex metamorphic history of the ore. The primary source of mercury is thought to be Lower Paleozoic submarine volcanism. The formation of ore bodies is, however, associated with metamorphic mobilization of mercury during the late stages of the Variscan orogeny.
Despite being relatively small, the mercury deposit at Horní Luby competed with the mercury mines in Idrija (Slovenia) and Almadén (Spain) in the 16th century. The production of mercury at Horní Luby is estimated to have corresponded to c. 10-30 % of the mercury production in the mines of Idrija and Almadén at that time. In addition to Venice, the mercury from Horní Luby was also supplied to Nurnberg, Antwerp and Lyons. In 1520-1540, the production of mercury from the Horní Luby mines was 6 to 15 tons per annum. The mines were abandoned in 1597. Attempts to reinstitute mining activity in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were not very extensive and always failed. The total production of the Horní Luby mines during the whole mining history is estimated to have been at least 200 tons of mercury. The major portion of this amount was extracted between 1520 and 1540, with a minor portion between 1560-1570.

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