We present a new method to detect and reconstruct fluid pathways in fossil hydrothermal systems that is based on systematic study of white micas in hydrothermally altered rock, using near-infrared spectroscopy. This method, developed in an Early Archean volcanic sequence in the Panorama district in Western Australia, uses new near-infrared spectroscopic data and published geological and geochemical data of fossil submarine hydrothermal systems in the area. Analysis of new near-infrared spectroscopic data revealed that the abundance of white mica and its Al content in altered volcanic rock vary systematically along fossil fluid pathways, from zones of low-temperature recharge to zones of high-temperature discharge, as a function of hydrothermal fluid chemistry, temperature of alteration, coexisting minerals, and composition of volcanic host rock. The abundance of white mica relative to that of chlorite and the Al content of white micas can be used to discriminate among the hydrothermal alteration facies along these fluid pathways, which permits detection and reconstruction of fossil fluid pathways.

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