13° SNET, Campinas, SP, maio/2011

Léo Afraneo Hartmann
Instituto de Geociências, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Avenida Bento
Gonçalves, 9500; 91501-970 Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil leo.hartmann@ufrgs.br
Overwhelming evidence points to widespread tectonic activity in the Serra Geral
Group of volcanic rocks, South America, caused by vapor overpressure from volcanic heating
of the Guarani aquifer. The main observed structures are hexagonal to polygonal faults (100500 m large) and lozenge fractures (5-30 km large). Intense hydrothermal alteration (H)
occurred continuously, interspersed with two sealing events (S). Initially porous (30 vo.%)
lava flow was altered (H1) in the Cretaceous (130 °C), forming smectite and zeolites (e.g.,
clinoptilolite) and sealed (S1). This nearly impermeable caprock was subjected to vapor
overpressure (H2), generating different structural responses in different positions in the lava
flow; (1) doming of the hangingwall with generation of lozenge fractures, and (2) fracturing
of the hangingwall. In both cases, loose sand from the Botucatu erg was injected as breccias,
dikes, sills and flows at the surface. Continued hydrothermal activity again sealed the rock
(seal 2); overpressured vapor (H3) intensely altered the rock (which became a mudstone),
generated polygonal faults and opened cavities by ballooning (amethyst geodes). The
hydrothermal activity also generated mineralizations of copper, kaolin and opal. This is a
contribution to the understanding of the tectonics of vapor overpressure from the Guarani
aquifer in the Paraná volcanic province.
The Cretaceous tectonics of overpressured vapor from the Guarani aquifer deforming
and mineralizing the Serra Geral Group, Paraná volcanic province, is presently evaluated. The
circulation of fluids in continental, sedimentary-volcanic basins is a major issue in the
geology of underground water, oil, gas and metals (e.g., copper, gold). The H2O-rich fluids
may be derived from the compaction of the sedimentary formations at depth or from the
heating of buried aquifers. The fluids may freely ascend to the surface, intensely altering the
porosity of the rocks during their ascent, but the present article concentrates on the tectonics
of overpressured water-vapor when confined by basaltic flow seals in the Paraná basin. The
interruption of the ascent of hot water and its vapor by a seal caused significant deformation
and intense hydrothermal alteration during the Lower Cretaceous in the Serra Geral Group
lava flows, as here described. Major structures include polygonal and lozenge faults, whereas
the hydrothermal alteration generated the largest deposits of amethyst and agate in the world,
and also copper, kaolin and opal mineralization.
A six-year period of investigations of the Serra Geral Group by the “Núcleo de
Excelência em Minerais Estratégicos” (UFRGS) led to a better understanding of the origin of
the giant amethyst geodes (Duarte et al., 2005, 2009, 2011; Hartmann, 2008, 2010; Hartmann
et al., 2011a, 2011b; Rosenstengel and Hartmann, 2011), copper mineralization (Pinto et al.,
2011b), the age of volcanism (Pinto et al., 2011a), and of volcanic processes and lava flow
correlation (Hartmann et al., 2010, 2011d; Pinto and Hartmann, 2011). This article expands
the acquired knowledge into a novel proposal of water-vapor tectonics that integrates all
structural, petrological, metallogenic and hydrothermal evidence recognized in the volcanic
group. The interpretation is based on extensive field work, observation of satellite images,
rock sample studies with the optical microscope and scanning electron microscope, chemical
analyses of minerals with the electron microprobe (major elements) and laser ablation (trace
elements), stable isotopes (C, O, S) of rocks and minerals, zircon SHRIMP determination of
U-Th isotopes, and numerical simulation of cavity generation in basalt, andesite and
Structures and alteration
The main structures presently characterized are polygonal and lozenge faults in the
volcanic rocks. Hydrothermal alteration features include two sealing events (seals 1 and 2) of
the solid, cool lava, the injection and extrusion over the basalts of sand originated in the active
eolian dunes (now Botucatu Formation), silicification of the sand, intrusion of breccia sills,
continued alteration of the basalt into a claystone and the formation of large cavities and their
filling with amethyst and agate.
Large, strike-slip faults cut the Serra Geral Group in several directions. The vertical
component of some of these faults was recognized by Pinto et al. (2011b) and Rosentengel
and Hartmann (2011). Individual blocks were downthrown 50-200 m to the west in the
Ametista do Sul mining district. They are commonly ascribed to the distensive thinning of the
crust during the opening of the Atlantic Ocean, and have commonly no hydrothermal minerals
or only calcite in the fault planes. These faults are not discussed here, because they are
younger than the structures and alteration formed in the volcanic group by water vapor
This article evaluates older faulting, often associated with intense hydrothermal
alteration of the basaltic rocks. Two types of faults are recognized: (1) polygonal faults and
(2) lozenge faults. They are smaller (e.g., 0.5-5 km-long) than the strike-slip faults (e.g., 100
km-long) but widespread and of great geological and economic significance in the Paraná
volcanic province.
The presence of polygonal faults in the Serra Geral Group was recognized by
Hartmann (2008) and related to the formation of amethyst geodes, particularly the hexagonal
to irregular, polygonal gossans above amethyst deposits. They are common in the Serra Geral
Group, easily recognized by the absence of native forest in the water-saturated soil inside the
polygon. In the pampas of Quaraí, the structure is marked by green grass and negative
cintilometric (K2O, U, Th) anomaly (Pertille et al., 2011).
Lozenge faults were first identified in two places by Hartmann et al. (2011c) in the
Quaraí region and later in Torres (Hartmann et al., 2011d), both in Rio Grande do Sul state.
This rare type of fault was first described by Reches (1978) and is typical of distensive
geological environments (e.g., Sagy et al., 2003). The presence of lozenge fractures at the
surface is confirmed as a tridimensional lozenge structure because lozenge fractures are
present in vertical, exposed surfaces of rock at the same exposure. This is the first description
of lozenge fractures in the Serra Geral Group.
The intense hydrothermal alteration of the volcanic rocks in event H1 to smectite and
zeolites is concentrated in amethyst geode-mineralized portions of the rock, where the losson-ignition (LOI) rises to 2-8 wt.%. Unaltered basalt has ˂1 wt.% LOI. Kaolin, opal and
copper mineralization were formed during event H1.In event H2, fluidized sand was injected
into the cool rocks due to heating of the Guarani aquifer by volcanism; sand also extruded at
the surface and breccia sills intruded the rocks. Event H3 caused silicification of the
sandstones and volcanic rocks, including the world-class mineralization of amethyst and agate
Overpressured vapor tectonics
The structural and mineralogical, hydrothermal alteration features described in the
Serra Geral Group are all interpreted as caused by the overpressure of hot water and its vapor
from the Guarani aquifer, heated by volcanism and confined below sealed basalt (andesite,
rhyodacite) lava flows. Experience in Iceland shows that a basalt lava flow has ~30 vol.%
porosity immediately after cooling. In Hawaii basalts, the vesicles remain unfilled, but in the
Serra Geral Group the vesicles and fractures were filled with smectite and zeolites (some
native copper) during hydrothermal event H1. This initial sealing event was required in the
Cretaceous for the evolution into overpressured vapor tectonics. The overpressure caused
doming of large, horizontal portions of the lava flow, and the cracking of the flow in lozenge
fractures. This three-dimensional extension was responsible for this rare type of tectonic
feature (e.g., Reches, 1978) in the continental Serra Geral Group. In sequence, fluidized sand
was injected into the lozenge fractures and silicified by the fluid.
During H2, cracking of the seal also occurred in other portions of the same flow
without doming, with similar injection of fluidized sand in several structures, including dikes,
sills, flows and breccia sills. Continued fluid flow again sealed the sand and the cracks, so this
seal 2 again raised the pressure of the confined vapor.
The H3 event caused failure of the rocks along hexagonal or irregular polygonal faults
and strongly altered the rocks and opened large cavities by ballooning (Hartmann et al.,
2011b) later filled by valuable silica minerals (also gipsite and calcite), completing the
formation of the geodes.
Large transcurrent faults, presumably associated with the opening of the South
Atlantic Ocean (e.g., Jacques et al., 2010), cut the volcanic group and caused vertical
displacements of hundreds of meters (200 m in Ametista do Sul; Manara and Hartmann,
Vapor tectonics was active during the short time span between the cooling to ˂130°C
of the lava flows of the Serra Geral Group, Paraná volcanic province, and the development of
large transcurrent faults. Vapor tectonics caused a sequence of events of major significance
for the understanding of the geology and metallogeny of this major continental volcanic
province. The following events were recognized by systematic field work associated with
laboratory tests:
(1) Seal 1 – The porous, cool lava was sealed by deposition of smectite and zeolites into
vesicles and fractures during hydrothermal event H1;
(2) H2 – Vapor overpressure from heated Guarani aquifer caused the brittle failure of the lava
into three-dimensional lozenge fractures, intrusion and silicification of sand; formation of
deposits of native copper, opal and kaolin;
(3) Seal 2 formed;
(4) H3 – Overpressure during H3 caused the silicification of the rocks, intense alteration,
opening of cavities by ballooning and their filling with silica minerals; brittle failure along
polygonal faults;
(5) Weathering of the mineralized portions of the rocks formed gossans;
(6) Mineralized portions of the lavas (amethyst) have high LOI (˃2 vol.%) due to alteration;
rocks with lozenge fractures have low LOI, because they remain nearly unaltered – the
fluid percolated easily to the surface through the lozenge cracks.
(7) Phreatic breccias with monomict volcanic clasts and sandstone matrix are formed at
˂130°C by vapor overpressure tectonics in several positions in the flow: (a) in the lower
amygdaloidal crust; (b) in the upper amygdaloidal crust; (c) below vertically jointed
massive core (type II).
(8) Intrusive breccias (sills) can be injected into an overlying, cool flow, in a process akin to
(9) Sand dikes and breccias can feed sand volcanos at the surface, and sand can spread
laterally to form thin (0.5-3.0 m), little extensive (hundred of meters), silicified sandstone
layers, very common at the contact of two different basalt flows in many places in the
Serra Geral Group.
This investigation was made possible by the systematic support from FAPERGS and CNPq to
PRONEX projects on the evolution of strategic minerals from Southern Brazil and Universal projects, and from
CAPES, all coordinated by the author. Geological Survey of Brazil (CPRM) geologists participated in many
field trips.
Duarte, L.C., Hartmann, L.A., Vasconcellos, M.A.Z. 2005. Epigenetic geode formation in the world class amethyst
deposit of the southern Paraná Basaltic Province. CD-ROM, I Simpósio Brasileiro de Metalogenia, Gramado, 6 pp.
Duarte, L.C., Hartmann, L.A., Vasconcellos, M.A.S., Medeiros, J.T.N., Theye, T. 2009. Epigenetic formation of
amethyst-bearing geodes from Los Catalanes gemological district, Artigas, Uruguay, southern Paraná volcanic
province. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 184, 427-436.
Duarte, L.C., Hartmann, L.A., Ronchi, L.H., Berner, Z., Theye, T., Massonne, H.J. 2011. Stable isotope and
mineralogical investigation of amethyst geode genesis in the Los Catalanes gemological district, Uruguay,
southernmost Paraná volcanic province. Mineralium Deposita 46, 239–255.
Hartmann, L.A. 2008. Amethyst geodes formed from hot water in dinossaur times. Ed. Gráfica da UFRGS, Porto
Hartmann, L.A. 2010. Minerais estratégicos do sul do Brasil: geologia de geodos de ametista e ágata. In: Hartmann,
L.A., Silva, J.T. (orgs.) Tecnologias para o setor de gemas, joias e mineração. Gráfica da UFRGS, Porto Alegre,
Hartmann, L.A., Arena, K.R., Pertille, J., Duarte, S.K. 2011d. Cretaceous hydrothermal lozenge fracturing, sand
and breccia intrusion in Paraná volcanic province rocks, Torres, Brazil. Journal of Volcanology and
Geothermal Research (in preparation).
Hartmann, L.A., Duarte, L.C., Massonne, H.J., Michelin, C., Rosenstengel, L.M., Bergmann, M., Theye, T.,
Pertille, J., Arena, K.R., Duarte, S.K., Pinto, V.M., Barboza, E.G., Rosa, M.L.C.C., Wildner, W. 2011a.
Sequential opening and filling of cavities forming vesicles, amygdales and giant amethyst geodes in lavas
from the southern Paraná volcanic province, Brazil and Uruguay. International Geology Review, doi:
Hartmann, L.A., Martins, L.C., Duarte, S.K., Arena, K.R. 2011c. Lozenge fractures and sand injectites formed
by water vapor overpressure in the southern Paraná volcanic province, Quaraí, Brazil. Journal of Structural
Geology (submitted).
Hartmann, L.A., Medeiros, J.T.N., Petruzzellis, L.T. 2011b. Numerical simulations of amethyst geode cavity
formation by ballooning of altered Paraná volcanic rocks, South America. Geofluids (submitted).
Hartmann, L.A., Wildner, W., Duarte, L.C., Duarte, S.K., Pertille, J., Arena, K.R., Martins, L.C., Dias, N.L. 2010.
Geochemical and scintillometric characterization and correlation of amethyst geode-bearing Paraná lavas from
the Quaraí and Los Catalanes districts, Brazil and Uruguay. Geological Magazine 147, 954-970.
Jacques, P.D., Machado, R., Nummer, A.R. 2010. Lineamentos estruturais na borda leste da Bacia do Paraná em
Santa Catarina: análise multiescala com base em imagens LANDSAT e SRTM. Pesquisas em Geociências
(UFRGS) 37, 117-131.
Pertille, J., Hartmann, L.A., Duarte, S.K., Arena, K., Rosa, M.L.C.C., Barboza, E.G. 2011. Gossan
characterization in the Quaraí and Los Catalanes amethyst geode districts (Brazil and Uruguay), Paraná
volcanic province, with use of rock geochemistry and scintillometry. Journal of Geochemical Exploration
Pinto, V.M., Hartmann, L.A. 2011. Flow-by-flow chemical stratigraphy and evolution of thirteen Serra Geral
Group basalt flows from Vista Alegre, southernmost Brazil. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências
(accepted for publication).
Pinto, V.M., Hartmann, L.A., Santos, J.O.S., McNaughton, N.J., Wildner, W. 2011a. Zircon U–Pb
geochronology from the Paraná bimodal volcanic province support a brief eruptive cycle at ~135 Ma.
Chemical Geology 281, 93-102.
Pinto, V.M., Hartmann, L.A., Wildner, W. 2011b. Epigenetic hydrothermal origin of native copper and
supergene enrichment in the Vista Alegre district, Paraná basaltic province, southernmost Brazil. International
Geology Review, doi: 10.1080/00206810903464547.
Reches, Z. 1978. Analysis of faulting in three-dimensional strain folds. Tectonophysics 47, 109-129.
Rosenstengel, L.M., Hartmann, L.A. 2011. Hemi-graben characterization of the Ametista do Sul mining district,
Cretaceous Paraná volcanic province of southern Brazil. Ore Geology Reviews (submitted).
Sagy, A., Reches, Z., Agnon, A. 2003. Hierarchic three-dimensional structure and slip partitioning in the western
Dead Sea pull-apart. Tectonics 22, 1-17.