Trace element catalyses mineral replacement reactions and facilitates ore formation

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Reaction-induced porosity is a key factor enabling protracted fluid-rock interactions in the Earth’s crust, promoting large-scale mineralogical changes during diagenesis, metamorphism, and ore formation. Here, we show experimentally that the presence of trace amounts of dissolved cerium increases the porosity of hematite (Fe2O3) formed via fluid-induced, redox-independent replacement of magnetite (Fe3O4), thereby increasing the efficiency of coupled magnetite replacement, fluid flow, and element mass transfer. Cerium acts as a catalyst affecting the nucleation and growth of hematite by modifying the Fe2+(aq)/Fe3+(aq) ratio at the reaction interface. Our results demonstrate that trace elements can enhance fluid-mediated mineral replacement reactions, ultimately controlling the kinetics, texture, and composition of fluid-mineral systems. Applied to some of the world’s most valuable orebodies, these results provide new insights into how early formation of extensive magnetite alteration may have preconditioned these ore systems for later enhanced metal accumulation, contributing to their sizes and metal endowment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1388
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2021

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