The experimental metal solubilities for rock-buffered hydrothermal systems, reported by Hemley et al. (1992), provide important insights into the acquisition, transport, and deposition of metals in real hydrothermal systems that produced base metal ore deposits. Water-rock reactions that determine pH, together with total chloride and changes in temperature and fluid pressure, play significant roles in controlling the solubility of metals and determining where metals are fixed to form ore deposits.Hydrothermal systems circulate fluids and heat, and the transport path of a hydrothermal fluid is likely to lie somewhere between an adiabatic (no heat loss to adjacent rocks) and a geothermal (complete thermal equilibrium with adjacent rock) path. The transport path of the hydrothermal fluids emanating from, or circulating near, deep-seated crystallizing plutons can be approximated by a quasi-adiabatic pressure-temperature path. In such a quasi-adiabatic setting, the pressure effect on rock-buffered metal solubilities is significant and allows metal transport over long distances because the trend of decreasing metal solubility with decreasing temperature is compensated by the trend of increasing metal solubility with decreasing pressure. The high-temperature portion of a quasi-adiabatic hydrothermal system will tend to leach metals from the rock and fix K and Na in feldspars. The source of the extracted metals may be late-stage magmatic melt, trace metals distributed in the lattice of silicate minerals destroyed during rock metasomatism, and/or small amounts of base metal sulfides disseminated throughout a given rock.Deposition of metals in hydrothermal systems occurs where changes such as cooling, pH increase due to rock alteration, boiling, or fluid mixing cause the aqueous metal concentration to exceed saturation. Relative metal transport concentrations, the availability of sulfur, the disposition of the saturation surfaces relative to each other, and the interplay of these variables through time are the major factors controlling the pattern of metal deposition (and nondeposition).Metal zoning results from deposition occurring at successive saturation surfaces. Zoning is not a reflection simply of relative solubility but of the manner of intersection of transport concentration paths with those surfaces. The experimental results are consistent with the typical outward zonation of Cu-Zn-Pb observed in porphyry coppers, Butte-type base metal vein deposits, skarns, and massive sulfides. Implications to mineralization patterns in Mississippi Valley-type, sedimentary Cu, and other low-temperature deposits are also of interest, with due recognition of the greater uncertainty regarding speciation and attainment of equilibrium in those environments. In such deposits, a probable outward zoning of Cu-Zn-Pb-Fe is suggested from the results.Saturation surfaces will tend to migrate outward and inward in prograde and retrograde time, respectively, controlled by either temperature or chemical variables. This, in turn, gives rise to zone migration and, where one zone encroaches on another, the appropriate apparent paragenetic relations. Such textural implications are incorrect, however, unless viewed within the context of the overall mineralization process. Additional controls bearing on metal precipitation sequence and coprecipitation, the presence or absence of zoning, reversals in zoning, sulfidation state, and timing relations between alteration and metallization are implicit in the results and are discussed.

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