Report

Porphyry-Copper Ore Shells Form at Stable Pressure-Temperature Fronts Within Dynamic Fluid Plumes

Science  21 Dec 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6114, pp. 1613-1616
DOI: 10.1126/science.1225009

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Abstract

Porphyry-type ore deposits are major resources of copper and gold, precipitated from fluids expelled by crustal magma chambers. The metals are typically concentrated in confined ore shells within vertically extensive vein networks, formed through hydraulic fracturing of rock by ascending fluids. Numerical modeling shows that dynamic permeability responses to magmatic fluid expulsion can stabilize a front of metal precipitation at the boundary between lithostatically pressured up-flow of hot magmatic fluids and hydrostatically pressured convection of cooler meteoric fluids. The balance between focused heat advection and lateral cooling controls the most important economic characteristics, including size, shape, and ore grade. This self-sustaining process may extend to epithermal gold deposits, venting at active volcanoes, and regions with the potential for geothermal energy production.

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