Structural studies of the Saint-Salvy zinc deposit and other Hercynian, veinhosted ore deposits in the French Massif Central and Pyrénées reveal a fourstage evolution of mineralized structures under rheological control: (i) localization of potential mineralized areas, guided by the presence of first-order lithological or structural heterogeneities that caused stress and strain perturbations; (ii) creation of second-order heterogeneities, corresponding to indurated shear zones that acted as rheological discontinuities; (iii) tectonic activation of these second-order heterogeneities, opening voids that allowed circulation of hydrothermal fluids and periodic trapping of ore minerals; (iv) reworking and partial destruction of the mineralized structures, caused by the reactivation of anisotropic surfaces acting as zones of weakness. The interaction between preexisting, first-order heterogeneities and regional shear strain caused instability, which in turn produced second-order and then lower-order heterogeneities. Such progressively smaller heterogeneities induced an increasingly focused, centripetal localization of structural disturbances that enabled hydrothermal fluid channelling. This is the reason that lower-order and late structures preferentially bear economic mineralization.

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