Gold in Magmatic Hydrothermal Solutions and the Rapid Formation of a Giant Ore Deposit

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Science  13 Oct 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5797, pp. 288-291
DOI: 10.1126/science.1132866

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The Ladolam hydrothermal system, on Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea, hosts one of the youngest and largest gold deposits in the world. Several deep (more than 1 kilometer) geothermal wells were drilled beneath the ore bodies to extract water at >275°C and to facilitate open-pit mining. Using a titanium down-hole sampler, we determined that the deep geothermal brine of magmatic origin contains ∼15 parts per billion gold. At the current gold flux of 24 kilograms per year, this deposit could have formed within ∼55,000 years. The combination of sustained metal flux and efficient metal precipitation led to the formation of a giant hydrothermal gold deposit in a short period.

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