Abstract

Complex ornate sinter deposits are found in many hot spring and geysers systems throughout the world, including those located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone on the North Island of New Zealand. Those sinters are formed of opal-A that replaced microbes, opal-A precipitated as cement, accessory minerals (e.g., kaolinite, jarosite, calcite), biological detritus (e.g., leaves, wood, pollen grains), and lithic detritus. The opal-A is compositionally variable because of the amount of water (OH and H2O) and, in some cases, accessory elements (e.g., Au, Ag) bound into its structure. The composition and fabric of the siliceous sinter found at any locality reflect the relative balance among the processes of replacement, precipitation, and deposition. The microbes that inhabit these systems are of critical importance because they are commonly replaced by and (or) encrusted with opal-A. In many settings, copious amounts of opal-A are precipitated as cement around the frameworks of silicified filaments. The cementation process, which continues for as long as waters supersaturated with respect to opal-A flow through the sinter, commonly reduces the porosity of the sinters by as much as 50%. This process is probably of far greater significance than has been previously recognized. The textural and compositional complexity of siliceous sinters found in hot spring and geyser systems reflects the myriad of interrelated processes that control their formation.

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