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Unusual mixed silica–carbonate deposits from magmatic–hydrothermal hot springs, Savo, Solomon Islands

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posted on 21.06.2016 by D.J. Smith, G.R.T. Jenkin, M.G. Petterson, J. Naden, S. Fielder, T. Toba, S.R.N. Chenery

The volcanic island of Savo, Solomon Islands, hosts an active hydrothermal system discharging unusual alkaline (pH 7–8) sulphate-rich, chloride-poor fluid, with variable admixtures of Ca–Mg–HCO3-rich fluid. Hot springs and their outflow streams precipitate a variety of deposits, including travertine, silica sinter and unusual mixed silica–carbonate rocks. Travertine fabrics are dominated by ray-crystal calcite, associated with rapid abiotic precipitation from a supersaturated solution. Sinter is produced by evaporation of thermal waters, and downstream samples contain preserved traces of micro-organisms, which potentially acted as templates for precipitation. Trace element chemistry of sinters and travertines includes anomalously high levels of Te, indicating a magmatic origin for a component fluid in the hydrothermal system. Springs are close to or at saturation with both calcite and amorphous silica. Increased contributions from the Ca–Mg–HCO3 end-member favours calcite formation; this fluid is of low-temperature origin, and as such is favoured by high rainfall. Mixed samples show cyclical changes between silica and carbonate precipitation, potentially as a result of seasonal variation in rainfall.

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