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Orogenic gold systems are open, flow-controlled thermodynamic systems and generally occur in mid- to upper crustal environments where there is strong coupling between fluid flow and dilatant plastic deformation. This paper considers the principles involved in such coupling, with an emphasis on the elastic and plastic volume changes and their influence on the fluid, mechanical and thermodynamic pressures. Some misconceptions regarding the magnitudes of these three distinctly different pressures and their influences on fluid flow and chemical equilibrium are addressed, with examples at both the tens of metres scale and the crustal scale. We show that the mean stress is less than twice the lithostatic stress for Mohr–Coulomb materials with cohesion and the thermodynamic pressure only has meaning under isentropic conditions and hence is less than many previously published estimates based on high mean stresses. At the crustal scale, we also include the role of critical behaviour in influencing the geometry and magnitudes of fluid pressure gradients and fluid flow velocities in open, flow-controlled systems.

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