AUTHORS: Jamie Wilkinson
The formation of large hydrothermal ore deposits is optimized by several factors: efficient extraction of metals from the source region, elevated metal concentrations in hydrothermal fluids, high fluid flux, effective focusing of fluids into a limited rock volume and efficient precipitation. Of these parameters, metal solubility displays the widest variability (up to 4 orders of magnitude) and is potentially the most important. A case study tracing metal transport in the Irish orefield suggests that efficient extraction from the source rocks is critical for the formation of economic deposits. The observation that ore fluids trapped in sphalerite contain orders of magnitude more metal than those in quartz implies that ore deposition is related to the influx of metal super-charged brines produced by this efficient leaching process. Large parts of the hydrothermal system in space and time may be barren due to a failure to attain efficient extraction and transport conditions.
KEYWORDS: Hydrothermal, ore, metal, solubility, source, leaching
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