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Fluid-inclusion analyses have provided some of the most useful information for determining the physical and chemical environments of mineral formation. The purpose of this chapter is to describe those fluid-inclusion characteristics which serve to distinguish relatively near-surface, epithermal formation conditions from deeper and, potentially, higher temperature formation conditions, and to discuss several techniques and problems which are specific to fluid inclusions trapped in the epithermal environment. A detailed summary and critique of fluid-inclusion literature related to epithermal systems has not been attempted. For this information the reader is referred to the recent compilations of Buchanan (1981), Heald-Wetlaufer et al. (1983), Roedder (1984), and Hedenquist and Henley (1985). Moreover, we have not attempted to relate any particular fluid-inclusion characteristic to a specific type or stage of mineralization, because an adequate data base to do so does not presently exist.

This presentation is limited to two subjects--the petrography and petrology of fluid inclusions from the epithermal environment--and is intended to provide the explorationist with a basic understanding of the criteria for recognizing and interpreting inclusions trapped in this environment. Two important topics will be discussed in detail: (1) the identification and interpretation of fluid inclusions trapped from boiling fluids, and (2) the identification of gases (mainly CO2) in fluid inclusions and the effect of volatiles on calculated pressures and depths of trapping. We will not, however, discuss the important chemical consequences of boiling and dissolved volatiles, as these subjects are covered in detail in other chapters in this volume (see Henley)

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