Earthquakes make gold veins in an instant

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A Delicate Gold NuggetPressure changes cause precious metal to deposit each time the crust moves.
Richard A. Lovett 17 March 2013

Scientists have long known that veins of gold are formed by mineral deposition from hot fluids flowing through cracks deep in Earth’s crust. But a study published today in Nature Geoscience1 has found that the process can occur almost instantaneously — possibly within a few tenths of a second.

The process takes place along ‘fault jogs’ — sideways zigzag cracks that connect the main fault lines in rock, says first author Dion Weatherley, a seismologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

When an earthquake hits, the sides of the main fault lines slip along the direction of the fault, rubbing against each other. But the fault jogs simply open up. Weatherley and his co-author, geochemist Richard Henley at the Australian National University in Canberra, wondered what happens to fluids circulating through these fault jogs at the time of the earthquake.

What their calculations revealed was stunning: a rapid depressurization that sees the normal high-pressure conditions deep within Earth drop to pressures close to those we experience at the surface…>>MORE>(