Heated magma plumes and water have caused gold and silver to come about from melted rocks along a volcanic zone in New Zealand, according to a new research.
Geologists from the University of Utah conducted a five-year study to test mineral deposits along the Taupo Volcanic Zone and found gold and silver deposits waiting to be discovered.
Findings of this research were published online in the journal Geothermics.
"The team did the work mainly to get a better understanding of processes of gold and silver deposition in ancient hydrothermal systems that are no longer active but that are host to ore deposits," said Stuart Simmons, a research professor at the University's Energy and Geoscience Institute, and the lead author of the study.
According to Simmons, the discovery deposits of gold and silver along geothermal wells and hot springs isn't anything new, with the first actually being discovered more than 50 years ago, and with this Champagne Pool hot spring in New Zealand. Here, the actual phenomenon can be seen as it happens.
The journey that led to the new discovery along the Taupo Volcanic Zone, however, began 15 years ago. Simmons, along with a colleague, had at that time developed a device specially designed to lower down wells, extending to as deep as 1.8 miles. They wanted to determine phosphorous mineral concentration through samples of thermal water obtained through the device. According to Simmons, they aimed to find new discoveries applying their new understanding, along areas in the Pacific Rim like New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Along the Taupo Volcanic Zone, very high temperatures emitted by magma plumes cause the water to heat up. The heated thermal water produces acidic underground reservoirs and springs, dissolving the rock around it. Fixed gold and silver in turn become loose, collect and then become deposited into the water. According to the researchers, if the water is successfully drilled, the gold deposit output could be as much as $2.7 million a year.
Simmons, however, mentioned how impractical it could be to mine gold and silver in the same, traditional method inside geothermal areas. High temperature, boiling water may be encountered even in shallow areas, and miners would have to think about a huge deal of environmental impacts. The research professor added that extracting the materials through the surface pipe work, where the gold and silver deposits flow through the fluids, would be the more practical approach.