Hydrogeochemistry of thermal springs in saline salar-like environments in the High Andes

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Laura Valentina Lagos Durán1,2, Martin Reich1, Luciano Achurra2 and Diego Morata1, (1)University of Chile, Department of Geology and Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA), Santiago, Chile, (2)EASA, Santiago, Chile
Evaporitic deposits and precipitates represent significant sinks of mobile cations (Li, As, B) and halides (Cl, I) in salar-like basin environments along the Andean volcanic belt in northern Chile. Li and B are particularly interesting because of their high concentrations in evaporitic minerals and geothermal waters in the region. Although these compositional features have been previously recognized in high-altitude salt lakes in northern Chile, the nature and extent of mixing processes between true evaporitic and geothermal endmembers in such environments is poorly understood. In a context where geothermal targeting methods need to be increasingly precise, a clearer understanding of what controls the localization of concealed geothermal resources is a prerequisite for more efficient exploration. Therefore, it is necessary to constrain surface saline inputs that can mask the deep imprints of the geothermal reservoir. On this basis, northern Chile offers a unique opportunity to test these features due to the large number of evaporitic closed basins containing thermal springs. To date, only a very limited number of studies have reported trace element concentrations and B, Li and Sr isotopes in salar-like waters aimed at differentiating the relative contributions of both members. In this study, we sampled water from high-altitude lakes with and without surficial thermal activity. This was complemented with geothermal water analyses from northern Chile and previously published data. In addition, we report preliminary dissolution experiments of evaporite minerals (e.g. ulexite, halite, gypsum, aragonite) to pure distilled water. These minerals were taken from two selected hydrological domains, located in the southern and northern part of the Chilean Central Volcanic Zone. Geochemical analyses of water run products from the aforementioned experiments at different temperatures (25 and 87°C, 500 hours of interaction each), confirmed that selected common elements (Cl, Li, Mg, As, B) allow to differentiate between geothermal and evaporitic endmembers. We are using isotopic ratios of δ7Li, δ11B and 87Sr/86Sr to provide insights about fluid sources and water-rock interaction.