Critical behaviour and coupled processes
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.
Figures & Tables
Economically viable concentrations of mineral resources are uncommon in Earth’s crust. Most ore deposits that were mined in the past or are currently being extracted were found at or near Earth’s surface, often serendipitously. To meet the future demand for mineral resources, exploration success hinges on identifying targets at depth. Achieving this requires accurate and informed models of the Earth’s crust that are consistent with all available geological, geochemical and geophysical information, paired with an understanding of how ore-forming systems relate to Earth’s evolving structure. Contributions to this volume address the future resources challenge by (i) applying advanced microscale geochemical detection and characterization methods, (ii) introducing more rigorous 3D Earth models, (iii) exploring critical behaviour and coupled processes, (iv) evaluating the role of geodynamic and tectonic setting and (v) applying 3D structural models to characterize specific ore-forming systems.