Shallow Hydrothermal Flow in a Strike-Slip Fault System, Mt Isa, Australia: A Proterozoic Analog for Modern Geothermal Systems Along Strike-Slip Faults

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 11:35 AM
Richard H Sibson, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand, Francesca Ghisetti, TerraGeologica, Christchurch, New Zealand and Michael Begbie, Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd., Huntly, New Zealand
Strong E-W shortening during the Isan Orogeny (1590-1500 Ma) led to crustal thickening and compressional inversion of former intracontinental rift basins. The resulting metamorphic/plutonic basement complex is disrupted by conjugate, mutually cross-cutting sets of brittle, late-orogenic strike-slip faults. Dextral strike-slip faults (separations < 25 km) strike NE-NNE, while conjugate sinistral faults strike SE-SSE, defining a wrench regime (σv = σ2) with horizontal maximum compression, σ1, trending c. 100°. The strike-slip faults are recessive except in dilational sites where upwelling hydrothermal fluids have silicified the cataclastic shear zones (CSZ) which protrude as blade-like ridges extending for kilometres across the semi-arid terrain. The mineralized fault segments include sinuous releasing bends where the fault trace is deflected <10° as well as more abrupt dilational stepovers with distributed extension fracturing linking en echelon fault segments. Other components of structural permeability include: (1) innumerable fault-parallel quartz-veins (cm to m thickness) within the CSZ; (2) irregular stringer veins; and (3) a regional set of predominantly extensional, subvertical planar quartz veins oriented 080-120° at moderate angles to the main faults. Broad contemporaneity is indicated by mutual cross-cutting relationships between all structural components. Measured strike separations along shear fractures are consistent with seismic slip increments which refreshed fracture permeability and promoted hydrothermal flow. Textures suggest the faults were exhumed from epithermal boiling environments (<1-2 km depth). Restoration of fault cohesive strength by hydrothermal cementation was critical in allowing continued vein formation by hydraulic extension fracturing. The distribution of hydrothermal quartz within the fault system provides a guide to structural localization of upflow zones in geothermal fields developed along strike-slip faults.