Metalliferous (Fe–Cu–Pb–Zn) quartz–carbonate–sulphide veins cut greenschist to epidote–amphibolite facies metamorphic rocks of the Dalradian, SW Scottish Highlands, with NE–SW to NW–SE trends, approximately parallel or perpendicular to regional structures. Early quartz was followed by pyrite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite, galena, barite, late dolomite–ankerite and clays. Both quartz–sulphide and carbonate vein mineralisation is associated with brecciation, indicating rapid release of fluid overpressure and hydraulic fracturing.
Two distinct mineralising fluids were identified from fluid inclusion and stable isotope studies. High temperature (>350°C) quartz-precipitating fluids were moderately saline (4.0–12.7 wt.% NaCl equivalent) with low (approximately 0.05). Quartz δ18O (+11.7 to +16.5‰) and sulphide δ34S (−13.6 to −1.1‰) indicate isotopic equilibrium with host metasediments (rock buffering) and a local metasedimentary source of sulphur. Later, low-temperature (TH = 120–200°C) fluids, probably associated with secondary carbonate, barite and clay formation, were also moderately saline (3.8–9.1 wt.% NaCl equivalent), but were strongly enriched in 18O relative to host Dalradian lithologies, as indicated by secondary dolomite–ankerite (δ18O = +17.0 to +29.0‰, δ13C = −1.0 to −3.0‰). Compositions of carbonate–forming fluids were externally buffered.
The veins record the fluid–rock interaction history of metamorphic host rocks during cooling, uplift and later extension. Early vein quartz precipitated under retrograde greenschist facies conditions from fluids probably derived by syn-metamorphic dehydration of deeper, higher-grade rocks during uplift and cooling of the Caledonian metamorphic complex. Veins are similar to those of mesothermal veins in younger Phanerozoic metamorphic belts, but are rare in the Scottish Dalradian. Early quartz veins were reactivated by deep penetration of low-temperature basin fluids that precipitated carbonate and clays in veins and adjacent Dalradian metasediments throughout the SW Highlands, probably in the Permo-Carboniferous. This event is consistent with paragenetically ambiguous barite with δ34S characteristic of late Palaeozoic basinal brines.