Base- and precious-metal mineral deposits comprise anomalous concentrations of metals and associated elements, which may be useful subjects for study as analogs for migration of environmental contaminants. In the geologic past, hydrothermal mineral deposits formed at the intersection of favorable geologic, hydrologic and geochemical gradients. In the present, weathering of these sulfide-rich deposits occurs as a result of the interplay between rates of oxygen supply versus rates of ground or surface-water flow. Transport and spatial dispersion of elements from a mineral deposit occurs as a function of competing rates of water flow versus rates of attenuation mechanisms such as adsorption, dilution, or (co)precipitation. In this paper we present several case studies from mineralized and altered sedimentary and crystalline aquifers in the western United States to illustrate the geologic control of ground-water flow and solute transport, and to demonstrate how this combined approach leads to a more complete understanding of the systems under study as well as facilitating some capability to predict major flow directions in aquifers.
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Geologic, hydrologic, and geochemical interpretations of mineral deposits as analogs for understanding transport of environmental contaminants