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Earthquake Turns Water into Gold: New Study Suggests

Travelers Today       By    Lena Vazifdar

Updated: Mar 18, 2013 01:57 PM EDT

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A new study published in Nature Geoscience journal has shown that earthquakes can turn water into gold when there is intense pressure that vaporizes the water. This process leaves gold behind, attached to deposites of the mineral quartz, reported Isciencetimes.com.

"Researchers used a thermo-mechanical piston model to simulate the effects of earthquakes, where fluid-filled cavities in the earth can often expand," reported Isciencetimes.com. "This expansion lowers the pressure within the cavity, causing the fluid to expand rapidly and vaporize. Gold contained within the liquid is then deposited in small amounts, there by showing how earthquakes turn water into gold."

Jamie Wilkinson who is a geochemist at Imperial College London in the UK said to Yahoo! News, "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."

Livescience.com reported that during an earthquake the fault jog is opened wider, the water inside vaporizes and becomes steam forcing sicilica which forms the mineral quartz and gold onto nearby surfaces.

Scientists previously thought that fluids would effervesce and bubble during an earthquake. Other studies suggested that minerals would just accumulate over time slowly.

"Surprisingly, the quartz doesn't even have time to crystallize, the study indicates. Instead, the mineral comes out of the fluid in the form of nanoparticles, perhaps even making a gel-like substance on the fracture walls. The quartz nanoparticles then crystallize over time," reported Livescience.com.

The researchers  of the study say that volcanoes can also be a source of gold, however Wilkinson who studies volcanoes say that isn't not the case.

"Beneath volcanoes, most of the gold is not precipitated in faults that are active during earthquakes," Wilkinson said to livescience.com.. "It's a very different mechanism."

Dion Weatherley who is one of the researchers on the study added to Livescience.com, "This new knowledge on gold-deposit formation mechanisms may assist future gold exploration efforts."

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