An earthquake can turn water to gold in a matter of seconds, scientists have discovered.
The new study was recently published in the March 17 edition of the journal Nature Geoscience. According to the model presented by researchers, water inside faults jogs vaporizes whenever an earthquake occurs. As a result, gold is deposited into the empty space.
Water below the surface tends to carry large concentrations of the silica, carbon dioxide, and gold. When an earthquake occurs, the water inside the jogs vaporizes and leaves gold behind.
University of Queensland geophysicist and lead author Dion Weatherley said even the smallest earthquakes can turn water into gold. However, the amount of gold left behind is very minimal since underground fluids contain only one part per million of the element.
It’s estimated that people have unearthed roughly 188,000 tons of gold from the earth’s crust. The World Gold Council explains that this has essentially depleted most of the easily-accessible deposits throughout the globe.
However, earthquakes could help create new deposits down the road.
“Given that small-magnitude earthquakes are exceptionally frequent in fault systems, this process may be the primary driver for the formation of economic gold deposits,” Weatherley explained.
The study author also stated that most earthquakes deposit only a tiny amount of gold. This causes the element to build up layer by layer. Weatherley added that “large quantities of gold may be deposited in only a few hundred thousand years.”
Although the recently-published study indicates that earthquakes are responsible for creating deposits of gold, University of Nevada geologist John Muntean remarked that the information is nothing new. However, the latest research has shed some new light on the subject.
“This paper quantifies the amount of pressure drop and it ties it into gold solubility and why that pressure drop could drop out all of the gold in the hydrothermal fluid,” Muntean said.
Gold deposits are also formed beneath volcanoes under the same conditions. Roughly 10 percent of the world’s gold supply is reportedly buried beneath these mountains.
Although scientists have discovered that earthquakes can turn water into gold within the blink of an eye, it could takes thousands of years for a fault to form a mineable deposit.
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