Regional Distribution of Silver Deposits on the Pacific Rim

Smith DM Jr,
Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 6
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Silver deposits, in which silver forms at least fifty percent of the value of the ore, are abundant and large on the east side of the Pacific and are absent in the western Pacific. To determine if this uneven distribution is related to features of consuming plate tectonic boundaries which dominate the metallogeny of the Pacific Rim, the variation of Ag/Au in porphyry copper deposits was used to estimate the relative silver content of magma generated in subduction zones. Porphyry copper provinces with high Ag/Au occur in regions of the eastern Pacific where silver deposits are abundant, suggesting that the distribution of silver deposits is controlled by the relative abun- dance of silver in subducted ocean crust. Ocean crust being subducted in the eastern Pacific is mostly less than 50 million years old in contrast to most ocean crust in the western Pacific which is much older. Enrich- ment of silver in young ocean crust at spread- ing centers may reflect metallogenetic evolution over geologic time. Silver may be transported to the surface in volcanic rocks, and deposits are common where felsic varieties are abundant. The high ,solubility of silver in natural waters provides a natural storage mechanism for silver weath- ered from these rocks and ultimately circulated in near-surface hydrothermal systems where many silver deposits form. The regional distribution of silver deposits is not influenced by discoverability, vertical metal zoning, or regional tectonic style. The effect of igneous differentiation is unclear.
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