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Distant off-fault damage and gold mineralization : the impact of rock heterogeneity

Moir, Heather and Lunn, Rebecca and Micklethwaite, S. and Shipton, Zoe (2013) Distant off-fault damage and gold mineralization : the impact of rock heterogeneity. Tectonophysics, 608. pp. 461-467. ISSN 0040-1951

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Field observations have established that fault-related damage can occur at locations, far from the principal slip surface, which are well outside the fractured region currently predicted by models of fault damage. We use a finite element model to simulate fracture initiation due to fault linkage and show how variations in rock properties allow off-fault damage to develop at surprisingly large distances away from the main fault. Off-fault damage continues to grow even after two adjacent, closely spaced fault segments have interacted and linked. We demonstrate that this process was important for the formation of fracture-hosted gold deposits in the Mount Pleasant goldfield, Western Australia. The strength of lithological contacts also has a significant impact on off-fault damage location and intensity. Our approach may go some way to explaining the non-intuitive distribution of mineralization in certain mineral systems, as well as being applicable to predict subsurface fracturing and fluid flow in hydrothermal/geothermal reservoirs.