Abstract

Champagne Pool, a large hot spring at Waiotapu in North Island, New Zealand, is rimmed by a subaerial sinter dam and a shallow subaqueous shelf that is composed of orange sinter rich in metallic sulphides. Orange siliceous flocs, also rich in sulphides, are in constant circulation in the spring pool and form loose sediment on the shelf. The orange sinters and flocs are rich in As, Sb, Tl, and Hg, and have high concentrations of Au (>100 ppm) and Ag (>330 ppm). Most metallic sulphides are amorphous and disseminated throughout the sinter, instead of forming distinct mineral phases.

The shelf sinters are domal and resemble stromatolites. The neutral chloride waters (pH 5.5; temperature 75°C), however, are virtually anaerobic. Examination of the sinters by scanning electron microscopy confirms that they are laminated and contain an abundant, low-diversity assemblage of filamentous, bacilliform, and coccoid microbes. The flocs are similarly composed of very small, silicified filaments. Silicification involved replacement of the cell walls and extensive encrustation by opal-A. Based on size and morphology, these microbes are probably anaerobic bacteria or archaea. By providing substrates for nucleation of the silica, the microbes are indirectly contributing to the formation of the gold-bearing sinters.

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