By Sandra Birungi
A new study has revealed that earthquakes can turn water into gold.
According to a model published in the March 17 issue of the journal Nature Geoscience, when there is an earthquake, a fault is created. There can be several faults in the ground and each fault has small fractures; these faults are often filled with water and it is believed to carry high concentrations of carbon dioxide, silica and attractive elements of gold.
When an earthquake occurs, the fault job opens wider and pulls water inside it which instantly vaporizes flashing to steam and forcing silica which forms mineral quartz and gold out of fluids and onto nearby surfaces.
According to Dion Weatherley, a geophysicist at the University of Queensland in Australia and lead author of the study, the amount of gold left behind after an earthquake is tiny. “Given that small-magnitude earthquakes are exceptionally frequent in fault systems, this process may be the primary driver for the formation of economic gold deposits.”
Jamie Wilkinson, a geochemist at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the study said, “To me, it seems pretty plausible. It’s something that people would probably want to model either experimentally or numerically in a bit more detail to see if it would actually work.”