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Earthquakes can turn water to gold, a new study has claimed. In an feature contained in the March 17 issue of the Nature Geoscience journal, scientists have stated that water in faults vaporizes when earthquakes take place, resulting in a deposition of gold.
The report claims that when an earthquake takes place, many large fractures and faults can be created, with many large faults having many small fractures along them. Researchers have claimed that water often moves into these faults, lubricating them and filling them up.
This water can carry high concentrations of carbon dioxide, silica as well as other elements such as gold - especially at depths of around 6 miles.
Then when an earthquake takes place on those faults, the sudden jolt causes the fractures to suddenly open up much wider, and a huge pressure is suddenly released at the location, causing the water inside the void to vaporize instantly. This process causes the silica (which forms quartz), as well as gold to exit the fluid and it attaches onto nearby surfaces, claims Dion Weatherley, a geophysicist at the University of Queensland in Australia and lead author of the study.
Jamie Wilkinson, a geochemist at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom has commented, "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," according to Our Amazing Planet.
"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," Weatherley has told OurAmazingPlanet.
Weatherley and co-author of the study, Richard Henley, suggest that a similar process could take place under volcanoes.