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Sulphides

 

The sulphide deposits are associated with the pillow lavas of the Troodos Ophiolite, although disseminated mineralisation is widespread in the other members of the Ophiolite.  There are five main mining districts in Cyprus with respect to sulphide mineralisation, namely: 

  • Skouriotissa area, including Phoucasa Mine, Mavrovouni, Apliki, Lefka, Ambelikou;

  • Tamassos area, including Agrokipia, Kokkinoyia, Memi, Alestos and Kokkinopezoula;

  • Kambia area, including Kambia, Kapedes, Peristerka, Pytharokhoma, Mathiatis and Shia;

  • Kalavassos area, including Mavridhia (A to E), Platies, Petra, Marvi Sykia, Landaria, and Mousoulos;

  • Limni area, including Limni Mine, Kinousa, Uncle Charles Mine and Evloimeni.

 Apart from these five main mining areas, isolated mines have been discovered including Troulli Mine (Larnaca), Mangaleni (Limassol), Peravasa (Limassol) and Vretchia (Paphos).

 

More than 30 deposits have been discovered (Fig. 2), which ranged in size from less than 50,000 to more than 20,000,000 tonnes with a copper content from less than 0.3% to 4.5%.  Zinc is also present but generally below 0.2%.

 

The origin of the pyrite ore bodies (Fig. 3) was uncertain and controversial until the late 1970s when massive sulphides were discovered in association with high-temperature black smokers and vent biota at the crest of the East Pacific Rise, which confirms that the formation of new oceanic crust through seafloor spreading is intimately associated with the generation of metallic mineral deposits at the seafloor.  Hydrothermal fluids discharging from the black smoker chimneys were observed to continuously precipitate metal sulphides, accumulating at and just below the seafloor, which potentially forms massive sulphide deposits.

 

The circulation of seawater through the oceanic crust is now recognised as the principal mechanism for the formation of these massive sulphide deposits.  Seawater deeply penetrates into the oceanic crust at seafloor-spreading centres and is modified to a hydrothermal fluid with low pH, low Eh, and high temperature, which is then capable of leaching and transporting metals and other elements that are later precipitated as massive sulphides at the seafloor or as stockwork and replacement sulphides in the sub-seafloor.  Drilling into the Mid-Atlantic Ridge has since revealed the size and internal structure of an active massive sulphide deposit and the underlying stockwork that is forming on young, unsedimented oceanic crust.

 

The production of copper from sulphide deposits in Cyprus goes back to the Bronze Age (3900–2500 BC), and up until the end of the Roman Era, Cyprus remained the main producer of copper in the known world.  Mining activity then ceased until the end of the nineteenth century when pyrite (FeS2) and chalcopyrite (CuFeS2) mining became active again, mainly for sulphur production but also for copper.  During the 1960s and the 1970s mining activity declined, due to the exhaustion of the sulphide deposits and also to the strong competition with other sources of sulphur.  Today, only one mine, the Phoenix Mine at Skouriotissa (Fig. 4), is still operational and since 1996 has been recovering copper using the SX/EW (solvent extraction / electrowinning) technology (Fig. 5).  For the first time since antiquity, pure copper is now produced in Cyprus (Fig. 6).

 

The long, continuous and intense mining activity in Cyprus is evident from the presence of slag deposits (remnants of ancient copper exploitation) (Fig. 7) scattered all over the island.

 

 

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