Cathodoluminescence and Growth of Cassiterite in the Composite Lodes at South Crofty Mine, Cornwall, England

C. B. Farmer*, A. Searl and C. Halls*
* Mining Geology Research Group, Department of Geology, Royal School of Mines, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ
School of Earth Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT

Abstract: The cathodoluminescence (CL) of cassiterite (SnO2) from the paragenetic sequence in the lodes at South Crofty Mines has been used in the interpretation of the processes which govern mineral deposition. Luminescence is controlled by the substitution of Ti, Fe and W for Sn in the cassiterite lattice. Ti and W behave as luminescence activators whereas Fe quenches luminescence. The observed colours and intensity of the luminescence are believed to result from the interplay between these effects. Successive generations of cassiterite formed during the separate stages of paragenetic evolution show different luminescence colours. These are believed to reflect changes in bulk composition of the fluid, which is indicated by the systematic variation in the composition of tourmaline in the associated gangue.

CL also reveals details of growth and deformation in individual crystals. Growth textures observed in CL are broad concentric growth banding, oscillatory zoning and sector zoning. Sector boundaries often show a zig-zag form which is indicative of competitive growth of adjacent crystal faces. Interpretation of CL textures is used to support the hypothesis that cassiterite growth took place under two main regimes. These are, firstly, conditions in which fluid pressure decreased abruptly when tectonic reactivation caused dilation of parts of the lode fracture system and secondly, conditions of sustained hydraulic pressure within fractured vein fill. In tectonically induced fractures the crystals are stubby, have non-equivalent growth faces and are commonly tetragonal bipyramidal forms in which sector zoning is invariably present. In hydraulic fractures crystals take a predominantly tetragonal prismatic form. Thus, it is believed that growth under these contrasting conditions leads to distinctive morphology and zoning in cassiterite, providing a basis for typomorphic characterisation.

Keywords: cathodoluminescence • cassiterite • zoning • typomorphism • Cornwall

Mineralogical Magazine; September 1991 v. 55; no. 380; p. 447-458; DOI: 10.1180/minmag.1991.055.380.14
© 1991, The Mineralogical Society
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