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The role of groundwater flow in the genesis of stratabound ore deposits : a quantitative analysis Garven, G.


Many conceptual models have been proposed to explain the fluid-flow mechanism responsible for the origin of carbonate-hosted lead-zinc deposits such as those in the Mississippi Valley and at Pine Point. This study is devoted to the quantitative investigation of one ore-genesis mechanism: gravity-driven groundwater-flow systems. Numerical modeling techniques are used to develop a self-contained computer code for two-dimensional simulation of regional transport processes along cross sections through sedimentary basins. The finite-element method is applied to solve the steady-state, fluid-flow and heat-transport equations, and a moving-particle random-walk model is developed to predict the dispersion and advection of aqueous components. The program EQ3/EQ6 is used to compute possible reaction-path scenarios at the ore-forming site. Full integration of geochemical calculations into the transport model is currently impractical because of computer-time limitations. Results of a sensitivity analysis indicate that gravity-driven ground-water-flow systems are capable of sustaining favorable fluid-flow rates, temperatures, and metal concentrations, for ore formation near the thin edge of a basin. Dispersive processes render long-distance transport of metal and sulfide in the same fluid an unlikely process in the genesis of large ore deposits, unless metal and sulfide are being added to the fluid along the flow path. The transport of metal in sulfate-type brines is a more defensible model, in which case the presence of reducing agents control the location of ore deposition. Hydrodynamic conditions that could result.--in ore formation through mixing of two fluids are rare. The theoretical approach is a powerful tool for gaining insight into the role of fluid flow in ore genesis and in the study of specific ore districts. A preliminary model of the Pine Point deposit suggests paleoflow rates on the order of 1.0 to 5.0 m³/m² yr, paleoconcentrations of zinc on the order of 1.0 to 5.0 mg/kg • H₂O, and paleotemperatures in the range 60°C to 100°C. Under these conditions, the time required for the formation of Pine Point would be on the order of 0.5 to 5.0 million years.

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