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Southern Alps Cu-Au hydrothermal system, Westland, New Zealand

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The Southern Alps of New Zealand is an actively rising mountain belt which displays a thermal anomaly adjacent to the Alpine Fault, the Australian-Pacific plate boundary. Extensive fluid movement occurs in this uplift zone, resulting in metallic vein mineralization. Gold mineralization is confined to greenschist facies rocks, while younger veins in amphibolite facies rocks near the Alpine Fault are enriched in copper. Transport and deposition of metals in this complex hydrothermal system is governed by interaction between rising metamorphic fluids and downward-percolating meteoric fluid. Metamorphic fluids have equilibrated with graphitic schist country rock and are relatively reduced. Infiltration and mixing of meteoric water increases oxygen activity and decreases sulphur activity in the fluid. Oxidised meteoric water heats up and dissolves Cu during downward percolation. This Cu is deposited as the fluid becomes more reduced. Hence, there is a progressive increase in copper content in the middle portions of the hydrothermal system, especially in the more permeable highly fractured rocks near the Alpine Fault.

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Johnstone, R.D., Craw, D. & Rattenbury, M.S. Southern Alps Cu-Au hydrothermal system, Westland, New Zealand. Mineral. Deposita 25, 118–125 (1990).

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  • Gold Mineralization
  • Meteoric Water
  • Fracture Rock
  • Hydrothermal System
  • Plate Boundary