3D numerical modelling of fluid flow in the Val-d’Or orogenic gold district: major crustal shear zones drain fluids from overpressured vein fields
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Fluid flow patterns have been determined using oxygen isotope isopleths in the Val-d’Or orogenic gold district. 3D numerical modelling of fluid flow and oxygen isotope exchange in the vein field shows that the fluid flow patterns can be reproduced if the lower boundary of the model is permeable, which represents middle or lower crustal rocks that are infiltrated by a metamorphic fluid generated at deeper levels. This boundary condition implies that the major crustal faults so conspicuous in vein fields do not act as the only major channel for upward fluid flow. The upper model boundary is impermeable except along the trace of major crustal faults where fluids are allowed to drain out of the vein field. This upper impermeable boundary condition represents a low-permeability layer in the crust that separates the overpressured fluid from the overlying hydrostatic fluid pressure regime. We propose that the role of major crustal faults in overpressured vein fields, independent of tectonic setting, is to drain hydrothermal fluids out of the vein field along a breach across an impermeable layer higher in the crust and above the vein field. This breach is crucial to allow flow out of the vein field and accumulation of metals in the fractures, and this breach has major implications for exploration for mineral resources. We propose that tectonic events that cause episodic metamorphic dehydration create a short-lived pulse of metamorphic fluid to rise along zones of transient permeability. This results in a fluid wave that propagates upward carrying metals to the mineralized area. Earthquakes along crustal shear zones cause dilation near jogs that draw fluids and deposit metals in an interconnected network of subsidiary shear zones. Fluid flow is arrested by an impermeable barrier separating the hydrostatic and lithostatic fluid pressure regimes. Fluids flow through the evolving and interconnected network of shear zones and by advection through the rock matrix. Episodic breaches in the impermeable barrier along the crustal shear zones allow fluid flow out of the vein field.