Physical-chemical conditions of ore deposition

Physics and Chemistry of the Earth



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Ore deposits form under a wide range of physical and chemical conditions, but those precipitating from hot, aqueous fluids-i.e. the hydrothermal deposits-form generally below 700??C and at pressures of only 1 or 2 kbar or less. Natural aqueous fluids in rocks may extract metal and sulfur from a variety of rock types or may acquire them as a residual heritage from a crystallizing silicate magma. Ore-forming hydrothermal fluids never appear as hot springs (except in deep, submarine situations) because they boil, mix with surface waters, and cool, thereby losing their ore-bearing ability before reaching the surface. Mineral systems function as chemical buffers and indicators just as buffers and indicators function in a chemical laboratory. By reading the record written in the buffer/indicator assemblages of minerals one can reconstruct many aspects of the former chemical environment. By studying the record of changing conditions one may deduce information regarding the processes functioning to create the succession of chemical environments and the ore deposits they represent. The example of the OH vein at Creede, Colorado, shows a pH buffered by the K-feldspar + muscovite + quartz assemblage and the covariation of S2 and O2 buffered by the assemblage chlorite + pyrite + quartz. Boiling of the ore fluid led to its oxidation to hematite-bearing assemblages and simultaneously produced an intensely altered, sericitic capping over the vein in response to the condensation of vapors bearing acidic components. The solubility of metals as calculated from experimental and theoretical studies of mineral solubility appears too low by at least one or two powers of ten to explain the mineralization at Creede. In contrast to Creede where the mineral stabilities all point to a relatively consistent chemistry, the Mississippi Valley type deposits present a puzzle of conflicting chemical clues that are impossible to reconcile with any single equilibrium situation. Thus we must seriously consider metastable equilibria; those most likely involve redox disequilibrium among the sulfur species in solution and perhaps also involve organic compounds. ?? 1981.

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Physical-chemical conditions of ore deposition
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Physics and Chemistry of the Earth
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