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Type: Journal article
Title: Genesis and preservation of a uranium-rich Paleozoic epithermal system with a surface expression (Northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia): radiogenic heat driving regional hydrothermal circulation over geological timescales
Author: Brugger, J.
Wulser, P.
Foden, J.
Citation: Astrobiology, 2011; 11(6):499-508
Publisher: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers
Issue Date: 2011
ISSN: 1531-1074
Statement of
Joël Brugger, Pierre-Alain Wülser and John Foden
Abstract: The surface expressions of hydrothermal systems are prime targets for astrobiological exploration, and fossil systems on Earth provide an analogue to guide this endeavor. The Paleozoic Mt. Gee–Mt. Painter system (MGPS) in the Northern Flinders Ranges of South Australia is exceptionally well preserved and displays both a subsurface quartz sinter (boiling horizon) and remnants of aerial sinter pools that lie in near-original position. The energy source for the MGPS is not related to volcanism but to radiogenic heat produced by U-Th-K-rich host rocks. This radiogenic heat source drove hydrothermal circulation over a long period of time (hundreds of millions of years, from Permian to present), with peaks in hydrothermal activity during periods of uplift and high water supply. This process is reflected by ongoing hot spring activity along a nearby fault. The exceptional preservation of the MGPS resulted from the lack of proximal volcanism, coupled with tectonics driven by an oscillating far-field stress that resulted in episodic basement uplift. Hydrothermal activity caused the remobilization of U and rare earth elements (REE) in host rocks into (sub)economic concentrations. Radiogenic-heat-driven systems are attractive analogues for environments that can sustain life over geological times; the MGPS preserves evidence of episodic fluid flow for the past 300 million years. During periods of reduced hydrothermal activity (e.g., limited water supply, quiet tectonics), radiolytic H2 production has the potential to support an ecosystem indefinitely. Remote exploration for deposits similar to those at the MGPS systems can be achieved by combining hyperspectral and gamma-ray spectroscopy.
Keywords: Epithermal system; Sinter deposit; preservation; zircon geochronology; uranium and REE mobility; radiogenic heat; exploration targeting
Rights: © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
RMID: 0020111543
DOI: 10.1089/ast.2011.0605
Appears in Collections:Earth and Environmental Sciences publications

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