Rare minerals of Tasmania and where to find them

Intro: There are some people, known as mineral collectors, that hunt for the most unique and beautiful mineral specimens in the world… and Tasmania has two of these world renowned and highly sought-after minerals in our own backyard; crocoite and stichtite.

Tasmania, Australia, West Coast, Travel, Geology, Adventure, Blog, Crocoite, Mineral, collector, collections, rare minerals, Tasmanian Minerals, Minerals, chrome, lead, vugs, cavities, mine, westcoast, Dundas, Zeehan, hydrothermal, rocks, explore, outdoors, Western Tassie, Tassie, nature, science, geoscience, mineralogy, how to find minerals, gems, gemstones, fossicking, mineral deposits, Adelaide mine

Crocoite sample at mineral fair from the Adelaide mine in Dundas -Tasmania, Australia

Minerals are naturally occurring substances that make up rocks. Geologists (specifically mineralogists) study and admire them, however, their beauty is admired by far more than just these specialists. These rare and highly prized minerals, specifically crocoite, are found (almost) exclusively here in Tasmania. Luckily one of my friends at the university, a German experimental petrologist, is also an avid mineral collector. He got us access to visit the Adelaide Mine in the Dundas district, near the town of Zeehan in western Tasmania. The Adelaide Mine, as well as other mines in the Dundas area, are the key localities for the best crocoites samples! In this post I will attempt to explain a bit more about these beautiful minerals, how they formed, and where to find them.

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Entrance to the Adelaide mine for crocoite samples – Dundas, Tasmania, Australia

 

Science Spiel: Red, green and purple (Geology, MineralogyOre Deposit Geology)

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Crocoite [PbCrO4]

Crocoite is a rare lead chromate [PbCrO4] and arguably the most famous mineral from Tasmania. It has beautiful elongated, hollow, prismatic to acicular crystals that are bright orange and red. The name comes from the Greek name for saffron, and it isn’t hard to imagine why! Crocoite has a beautiful vitreous lustre, but this is lost once exposed to UV light (i.e. sunlight).

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Geological cross-section through the crocoite-bearing gossans (i.e. the crocoite mines) in Dundas, Tasmania, Australia (after Bottrill and Baker, 2008)

How crocoite forms is still a bit enigmatic, however, simply put it basically forms when a hydrothermal fluid rich in chrome (Cr), that was likely leached and oxidized from the surrounding chrome-rich ultramafic rocks in the area, encounters a hydrothermal fluid rich in lead (Pb). When these two Cr- and Pb-rich hydrothermal fluids meet, or when the Pb-rich hydrothermal fluid encounters the Cr-rich hostrock, crocoite forms (Bottrill and Baker, 2008). The mineral crocoite occurs with Pb-Zn-Ag sulfide veins in siderite and ankerite faults zones, but commonly the crocoite grows in open-space cavities and vugs within the surrounding rocks in areas that have been largely altered to clays and gossans (Bottrill and Baker, 2008).

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Crocoite in a large vug within the Adelaide mine in Dundas – Tasmania, Australia

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Stichtite (purple) in serpentine (green) from Tasmania, Australia

Stichtite is a beautiful purple magnesium hydroxycarbonate [Mg6Cr2CO3(OH)16·4H2O] that was first discovered here in Tasmania, near the town of Zeehan, in 1981 (Twelvetrees, 1914). It has a waxy luster and is generally within Cambrian-aged serpentine as small disseminations that have replaced chromite/magnesiochromite (Bottrill, 2001). The bright green mineral serpentine forms when high temperature and pressure rocks from the earth’s mantle rich in the mineral olivine, interact with lower temperature fluids. This interaction happens when the mantle-derived rocks are obducted or thrusted to the earth’s surface, and they chemically react with lower temperature fluids to hydrate and produce the mineral serpentine. The light purple mineral stichtite is intertwined with serpentine and also comes from the chemical reaction of mantle-derived minerals, such as chromite, with alkaline lower temperature fluids. As a geologist, I always think mineral specimens are beautiful natural, however, stichtite in serpentine is very frequently polished to highlight the green and purple contrasting colours.

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Stichtite (purple) in serpentine (green) from Tasmania, Australia

Where do you find these minerals in Tasmania?

The Dundas district, near Zeehan, is where the majority of the stichtite and crocoite are found. Most of the good sites are private mines, with only some open to the general public. For the stichtite in serpentine samples, some key localities are Serpentitne Hill, Nevada Creek and Stichtite Hill. For crocoite samples, the key mines are Adelaide mine, Dundas Extended mine, Red Lead mine, as well as others (Bottrill, 2001).

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Locations of crocoite and stichtite mines and outcrops in western Tasmania, Australia (after Bottrill, 2001). Highlighted crocoite mines are 1: West Comet and Dundas Extended mines; Crocoite: 2: Adelaide mine; 3 Red Lead mine; Stichtite outcrops and mines are 4: Stichtite Hill; 5: Platt and Kosminsky mines; 6: Comet-Maestries mines; 7: South Comet mine. Highlighted stichtite outcrops and mines are 1: West Comet and Dundas Extended mines; 9: Nevada Creek; 11: Serpentine Hill (Tunnel Hill).

For more information, check out this .pdf guide from Mineral Resources Tasmania (http://www.mrt.tas.gov.au/mrtdoc/dominfo/download/UR2001_08/UR2001_08.pdf),

and if you are interested in minerals of Tasmania I recommend this book as well (http://www.mrt.tas.gov.au/portal/a-catalogue-of-the-minerals-of-tasmania).

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Driving to the Adelaide crocoite mine – Dundas, Tasmania

As mentioned above, most of these are private, but if you are keen and ask nicely you might get access to a mine tour, such as the kind folks at Adelaide mine did for us!

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Inside the Adelaide crocoite mine – Dundas, Tasmania

Final Thoughts: I usually try and collect an interesting rock or mineral from the place I travel to, and I personally think this is the best type of souvenir as it is unique and a little natural piece of the place. If you want something from Tasmania, I can’t think of a better item than a beautiful mineral that is uniquely from the westcoast of Tassie! It was quite the adventure going out to the westcoast and mines themselves, and just a superb experience to be able to go into the Adelaide mine and see the large vugs and cavities where the minerals have grown in situ. I don’t think you have to be a geologist or specialist to appreciate these beautiful minerals of Tasmania.

 -Stephanie

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Crocoite in a vug within the Adelaide mine in Dundas – Tasmania, Australia

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Morning reflections of a little Silurian siltstone and fine-grained sandstone island on Lake Burbury, Tasmania

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Hidden gold mines and stone forests of Northern Peru

Intro: While Chile may be well-endowed in giant copper mines, Peru has a more golden-flavour to its country-side. After my travels in Chile we flew to the northern Peruvian region of Cajamarca. The main town is also called Cajamarca (which is the place where they killed the last Inca). From here it was off to the golden hills where hidden over 3,000 metres above sea level are some of the richest gold deposits in the world, plus some neat anthropogenic geological formations (i.e. canals carved into stone from the pre-Inca Cajamarca culture)

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At the Tantahuatay gold mine near Cajamarca, Northern Peru

Science Spiel: Gold and Stone (Geology, Ore Deposit Geology)

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Location of gold deposits near Cajamarca, Peru

Peru is divided into roughly three geographic regions; these are known quite well to local Peruvians as the Highlands, Coast and Jungle. While all three regions host their own treasures, the golden gems are hidden more-or-less in the Highlands. Like with Chile, the Peru Highlands are part of the long Andean Cordillera. This is a parallel range of mountains at the western edge of South America, related to the great compressive forces along the margin due to the subduction of the oceanic Nazca plate under the continental South American plate. Areas of flat slab subduction and crustal thickening has uplifted regions to over 4,000 m above sea level (Benavides-Caceres, 1996).

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Sunrise over the Highlands in the Cajamarca region of Northern Peru

Within the Cajamarca region of northern Peru lies the countries most mineralized belt. There are at least 14 known porphyry copper-gold deposits and 19 epithermal gold-silver deposits, all within ~60 km north of Cajamarca (Gustafson et al., 2004)! This is known as the Yanacocha Epithermal Gold Belt (named after the largest gold deposit in Peru, Yanacocha). Gold deposits in this region as largely classified as epithermal; a term used to call certain types of gold deposits that formed in settings that were < 1 km deep and were subjected to < 250 °C hot fluids (Buchanan, 1981; Heald, 1987; White and Hedenquist, 1990; Corbett and Leach, 1998).

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Yanacocha gold mine – Cajamarca region in Northern Peru

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Gold in drillcore from the La Zanja gold mine – Cajamarca region, Northern Peru

The gold mines I visited in Peru were La Zanja, Yanacocha and Tantahuatay, and these are all classified as a sub-set of epithermal deposits known as “high-sulfidation” epithermal deposits. Sub-classfications to the epithermal deposits are based on specific paramenters of the hot fluids (e.g. acidic, oxidation state, etc.) which precipitate certain mineral assemblages (e.g. enargite and alunite; White and Hedenquist, 1990). The Cajamarca region is of particularly interest because not only does it host these large epithermal deposit, but they are spatial and temporally associated and overprinting porphyry copper-gold deposits (e.g. The Andes, copper mines and volcanoes of Chile), sometimes resulting in odd wormy dissolution textures known as “gusano” texture. It is not entirely understood why the gold deposits are here and how they formed, but a common feature is their occurrence on a northeast-striking 30 – 40 km wide, 200 km long belt known as the Chicama-Yanacocha structural corridor (Quiroz, 1997). The intersection with the northeast structures and the Andean parallel and trans-Andean structures (i.e. faults sub-parallel and perpendicular to the Andes) are thought to have localized these giant gold deposits (Vidal et al., 1997; Longo, 2000).

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Wormy “gusano” texture (i.e. ?pyrophyllite, ?diaspore? and? alunite in quartz-altered matrix) from the Yanacocha gold mine – Peru

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Water canals carved into volcanic rock at Cumbemayo – Cajamarca, Peru

And finally, when my field course on gold deposits of Peru was over, I spent some extra time checking out a place nearby Cajamarca, known locally as the “Stone Forest” or “Cumbemayo”. This is a site of volcanic breccias (i.e. ignimbrites) that have been cooled and weathered in such a way (i.e. column jointing) that they now resemble beautiful pillars and trees. What’s also unique about these rocks are the numerous and undulating carved canals. Canals were made by the 2,000 year old pre-Inca culture of the Cajamarca people in order to funnel and divert water to the nearby towns.

 

 

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Cumbemayo “Stone Forest” in the Cajamarca region, Northern Peru

Final Thoughts: The long (~ 3 hour) drive to and from the gold mines really put into perspective not only the beauty of the Peruvian highlights, but also how well it can hide these large gold deposits. As I mentioned initially, most of these sites are over 4,000 m above sea level, and unless you know where to look and what to look for they can easily be missed. Who know how many more large gold deposits underlie the rugged highlands of Cajamarca? I guess that’s what us exploration geologists are for!

-Stephanie

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Golden hill of the Tantahuatay gold mine near Cajamarca, Northern Peru

Peru, South America, geology, travel, blog, adventure, hiking, exploring, earth, science, rocks, nature, geomorphology, Inca, Peru, Channels, Stone Forest, Cumbre de Mayo, Northern Peru, Andes, Cajamarca, mountains, culture

Cumbemayo “Stone Forest” in the Cajamarca region, Northern Peru

 

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Quartz-tourmaline-pyrite-molybdenite-cemented breccia in drill-core at the La Zanja gold mine – Northern Peru

 

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Stairs to the top of the town of Cajamarca – Northern Peru

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Cajamarca, Peru (burning of the last Inca)

Peru, South America, geology, travel, blog, adventure, hiking, exploring, earth, science, rocks, nature, geomorphology, gold, copper, gold mine, porphyry, epithermal, low sulfidation, high sulfidation, sulphidation, deposit, large, ore, metals, Northern Peru, Andes, Cajamarca, mountains, cu porphyry, copper belts, epithermal belts, Tantahuatay, Yanacocha, La Zanja, enargite, alunite, covellite, clay, gusano, pyrophyllite, chalcopyrite, bornite, electrum, tourmaline, quartz, minas, mines

Drill-core shed at the La Zanja gold deposit – Cajamarca region in Northern Peru

Peru, South America, geology, travel, blog, adventure, hiking, exploring, earth, science, rocks, nature, geomorphology, gold, copper, gold mine, porphyry, epithermal, low sulfidation, high sulfidation, sulphidation, deposit, large, ore, metals, Northern Peru, Andes, Cajamarca, mountains, cu porphyry, copper belts, epithermal belts, Tantahuatay, Yanacocha, La Zanja, enargite, alunite, covellite, clay, gusano, pyrophyllite, chalcopyrite, bornite, electrum, tourmaline, quartz, minas, mines

Gold in drillcore from the La Zanja gold mine – Cajamarca region, Northern Peru

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The Andes, copper mines and volcanoes of Chile!

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Chilean flag waving in the Andes

Intro: Chile is one of the best countries in the world for geology and metal deposits. It’s elongated western margin is bounded by an earthquake-inducing, mountain-building and ore deposit-forming subduction zone! I recently took part in a field course run by our university that explored the northern-region of the country where the Atacama desert and some of the largest copper deposits in the world are located. In this post I will highlight some of the places I went and talk about the general geology of Chile, it’s ancient and active volcanic arc, and some of it’s largest copper deposits.

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San Pedro volcano in the northern Atacama desert, Chile

Science Spiel: Mountains, volcanoes and copper (Geology, Volcanology, Ore Deposit Geology)

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Map of South America with east-dipping subduction zone on the westcoast and locations of active volcanoes in the Andes (black triangles) (Stern, 2004)

Chile is home to the Andes. The Andes are the longest mountain chain in the world, and the run parallel to the western coastline of South America. The mountain chain formed < 570 Ma when the Pacific oceanic crust began subducting eastward, underneath South America (Jordan et al., 1983; Stern, 2004). The Andes are the most ideal example of an orogenic system, where the compressive forces of the subducting oceanic plate created large fold-and-thrust belts and elevated the Andes mountains to the high elevation they currently reside at. We could see the expression of this beautifully at the Valley of the Moon and Salar de Atacama, which are folded evaporate beds and a salt lake, currently at > 2500 m above sea level (asl). The Salar de Atacama is also one of the largest modern halite systems on earth!

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Valley of the Moon fold-and-thrust beds – Chile

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A flamingo in the Salar de Atacama (i.e. salt lake) – Chile

An active volcanic arc in Chile is resultant from the subducting Pacific oceanic plate, and has this arc has migrated from west to east since its initiation ~ 570 Ma. Plutonism and volcanism has migrated with time and the current active volcanoes are therefore at the far east margin of Chile, near the border of Argentina.

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Volcan San Jose in east-central Chile

We drove near some of these volcanoes, such as Volcan San Pedro (6145 m asl) Volcan San Pablo (6092 m asl) and Cerro Palomna (6023 m asl) in northeast Chile, and Volcan San Jose (5865 m asl) in east-central Chile. However, the story isn’t as simple pure subduction and volcanoes. The ~570 Ma history the subduction zone has experience transient periods of accelerated convergence rates of subduction, different angles of convergence, and areas of flat-slab subduction (i.e. where the subduction of off-shore sea mounts and other buoyant features had created a shallow-angle of subduction along the margin; Isacks, 1988). The areas of flat-slab subduction and absence of volcanism are where the majority of the copper and gold deposits in Chile are located…

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Cerro Palomna and other volcanoes in northeast Chile

Chile, South America, geology, travel, blog, adventure, hiking, exploring, earth, science, rocks, nature, geomorphology, volcanoes, volcano, copper, gold, porphyry, deposit, large, ore, metals, Atacama desert, Northern Chile, Andes, mountains, copper, gold, porphyry, deposits, cu porphyry, copper belts, porphyry belts

Copper deposits belts of the Andes (from Sillitoe and Perello, 2005)

Northern Chile has some of the largest copper (± gold ± iron) deposits in the world. These copper deposits formed from a combination of factors, but are generally associated with intrusive-extrusive magmatism and tectonic activity on the western boundary of the South American plate (Davidson, 1987; Camus, 1990; Sillitoe and Perelló, 2005). The eastward migration of the volcanic arc (i.e. tectonic activity) has resulted in an east-west zonation of several metallogentic belts that developed on the margin (Sillitoe and Perelló, 2005). Belts are interpreted as reflection of changes in the tectonic setting and igneous activity during the evolution of the Andean oreogen (Skewes and Stern, 1994; Mpodozis and Perelló, 2003).

Chile, South America, geology, travel, blog, adventure, hiking, exploring, earth, science, rocks, nature, geomorphology, volcanoes, volcano, copper, gold, porphyry, deposit, large, ore, metals, Atacama desert, Northern Chile, Andes, mountains, copper, gold, porphyry, deposits, cu porphyry, copper belts, porphyry belts, rio blanco, los bronces

The Rio Blanco copper mine in the Andes – Chile

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Chalcopyrite and bornite (i.e. copper minerals) at Rio Blanco, Chile

These copper deposits are known as “porphyry copper” deposits (due to their association with a porphyritic-intrusion), and most of these formed during the Eocene to Oligocene in Chile (~ 43 – 32 Ma; Mpodozis and Cornejo, 2012). Examples of some of the giant porphyry copper deposits that are Chuquicamata and Rio Blanco-Los Bronces. I got to visit some of these copper deposits, which are now active mines… and the sizes of these operations are absolutely incredible! We also went to a massive magnetite (i.e. iron) mine called Los Colorados. The magnetic content of the rocks is so large that the dust is magentic enough to build up on a pen-magnet and show the polarity of the earth’s magnetic fields!

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Chuquicamata copper mine open-pit, Chile. The steep diagonal line in the open-pit photo is a major fault known as the West Fissure. This fault separates the high-grade copper ore (right) from the barren waste rock (left) at Chuquicamata.

Chuquicamata copper mine open-pit, Chile, Los Colorados, Fe-oxide, iron oxide, mine, open pit

Magnetic dust at the mine showing the polarity of the magnetic field, at the Los Colorados iron mine, Chile

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Copper oxide cement from the gravel-hosted copper deposit of Mina Sur, southeast of Chuquicamata – Chile

Final Thoughts: I was extremely fortunate to be able to participate in a course that took me into the heart of an ancient copper-rich and modern volcano-rich region of earth. The scope of the volcanoes and the amount of copper, gold and other precious metals contained within this narrow north-trending country of Chile is awe-inspiring. I briefly touched on the metal-endowment in this blog post, insteading giving a more broad overview of what makes Chile so spectacular geologically. As a researcher in copper and gold porphyry deposits I could think of no other place that exemplifies the ideal end-members of our understanding of what these large copper (and sulfur) anomalies are.

Chile, South America, geology, travel, blog, adventure, hiking, exploring, earth, science, rocks, nature, geomorphology, volcanoes, volcano, copper, gold, porphyry, deposit, large, ore, metals, Atacama desert, Northern Chile, Andes, mountains, chile, jumping, volcanoes

The best type of jumping photo are the ones at 4200 m above sea level with active volcanoes of the South American Andes in the background…

In conclusion, not only is Chile a beautiful and exhilarating country to travel and explore, but it has a thriving economy fueled by the spectacular endowment of copper and other metals embedded within it’s land. What a fantastic way it is to explore a country by learning the earth science of it all! Well, that’s my opinion… but maybe I’m a bit biased!

-Stephanie

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Lightning bolt in the Atacama desert, Chile

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The Salar de Atacama (i.e. salt lake) in Chile

Chile, South America, geology, travel, blog, adventure, hiking, exploring, earth, science, rocks, nature, geomorphology, volcanoes, volcano, copper, gold, porphyry, deposit, large, ore, metals, Atacama desert, Northern Chile, Andes, mountains, San Jose, active volcanic zone, ande mountains, llamas, alpacas

Llamas in Chile!

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High mountain of the Andes in Chile

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Boiling mud, hot pools and Hobbits; Geothermal systems in Taupo, New Zealand

New Zealand, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, stratovolcano, volcanology, field trip, geothermal, hot springs, mud pools, geysers, energy, boiling, gold deposit, metals, epithermal, waiotapo, TVZ, silica sinter, sinter, extremophiles, champagne pool, silica sinter, geothermal region, boiling mudIntro: Continuing on from my first post on The Volcanoes of Taupo, this one will focus all about the hot, dangerous and ever changing geothermal systems of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. As I was saying before, the link between volcanoes, geothermal systems, and precious metal formation is quite strong, as most gold deposits are formed via the interaction of hot hydrothermal fluids with their surrounding rocks.

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Location of geothermal systems and volcanoes in Taupo Volcanic Zone, north island, New Zealand (Simmons and Brown 2007)

Thus making our way through the active Taupo Volcanic Zone (TVZ) in North Island, New Zealand was a fantastic opportunity to see some of the processes in action that contribute to mineral deposits and drive geothermal energy. With my last post talking about the broad tectonics and overview of the TVZ, this one will focus a little closer on more of the unique and bizarre features associated with geothermal systems. And of course, once again another Lord of the Rings mention has to be made… though not quite in the TVZ, Hobbiton is a short drive away and a chance to see one of the most detailed, preserved movie sets out there.

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Boiling Mud at Orakei Korako Geothermal Pools, New Zealand

Science Spiel: Hot Waters – Cool Rocks – Bad Smells (Geology, Geochemistry, Geothermal)

Geothermal systems are regions where a nearby magmatic heat source has caused the surrounding rocks and circulating waters to be heated to higher temperatures. Hydrothermal (hot-water) convection is driven by the difference in the hot, rising column of water with the surrounding cool water. Hot springs, geyser, mud pools, and fumaroles (gas vents) are the surface expression of these geothermal systems. While the waters circulate through the ground, it incorporates magmatic volatiles such as H2O, HCl, CO2, H2S, and SO2 that gives the waters unique physical and chemical characteristics (Bibby et al., 1995). Therefore, to three vital requirements for geothermal activity are water, heat, and permeability to the surface.

New Zealand, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, stratovolcano, volcanology, field trip, geothermal, hot springs, mud pools, geysers, energy, boiling, gold deposit, metals, epithermal, orakei korako

Boiling geothermal waters at Orakei Korako Geothermal Pools, New Zealand

The Taupo Volcanic Zone has around 20 known geothermal systems (Bibby et el., 1995). Though similar features can be seen in most, each ones hosts unique features.

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Image of active geothermal systems in the Taupo Volcanic zone (electrical conductivity at shallow depth, <500m, used as a proxy for their footprint). Yellow underlies = systems discussed in blog post. (from Rowland & Simmons 2012, Modified from Bibby et al., 1995).

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Hot bacterica extremophiles at Orakei Korako Geothermal Pools, New Zealand

Orakei Korako, also known as “The Hidden Valley”, was our first stop and is most notable for its series of silica sinters. Sinter is a precipitate of amorphous silica (SiO2) from cooling geothermal waters, and at Orakei Korako it imposingly cements old fault scraps, leaving the “stair step” appearance. Other elements or compounds incorporated into the sinter, as well as algal and bacterial growth like conophyton, are responsible for the departure from the usually white colour of silica sinter.

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Stair-step terraces at Orakei Korako Geothermal System are the result of silica sinter precipitating on fault scraps

New Zealand, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, stratovolcano, volcanology, field trip, geothermal, hot springs, mud pools, geysers, energy, boiling, gold deposit, metals, epithermal, orakei korako, TVZ, silica sinter, sinter, bacteria, extremophiles

Silica sinter at Orakei Korako Geothermal Pools, New Zealand

Next up was Waiotapu, one of the largest geothermal systems in New Zealand where much of the activity is centred on 900 year old explosion craters. Waiotapu has an extensive variety of the different types of bizarre geothermal features. Acid-sulphate waters dissolve the overlying rocks, crating collapse craters like Devil’s Home.

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Devil’s Home collapse crater at Wai-O-Tapo, New Zealand

New Zealand, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, stratovolcano, volcanology, field trip, geothermal, hot springs, mud pools, geysers, energy, boiling, gold deposit, metals, epithermal, waiotapo, TVZ, silica sinter, sinter, extremophiles, champagne poolWaiotapu has many large alkaline springs, like the famous Champagne Pool; a neutral Cl filled hydrothermal explosion crater. The orange rim around Champagne pool is sinter from outflow and this has been tested to contain abnormally high amount of Au, Sb, As, Ag, Hg, among others, making this a compelling analogy to a modern gold/precious metal deposit (Giggenbach et al 1995).

New Zealand, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, stratovolcano, volcanology, field trip, geothermal, hot springs, mud pools, geysers, energy, boiling, gold deposit, metals, epithermal, waiotapo, TVZ, silica sinter, sinter, extremophiles, champagne pool

Champagne Pool orange silica sinter rim at Wai-o-tapu, New Zealand

Finally, the last geothermal area we visited was the Waimangu volcanic valley. Youthful and unique, Waimangu is the world only known geothermal field to have formed in historical times from an eruption on June 10th 1886. It is beautifully maintained as a natural, eco-tourism park. A highlight is “frying pan lake” (you can guess where the name came from…)

New Zealand, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, stratovolcano, volcanology, field trip, geothermal, hot springs, mud pools, geysers, energy, boiling, gold deposit, metals, epithermal, waimangu, TVZ, silica sinter, sinter, extremophiles, frying pan lake

Frying Pan Lake at Waimangu Geothermal Volcanic Valley, New Zealand

There are (mainly) two types of geothermal water that differ from surface waters due to the hot chemical interactions with rocks on their way to the surface. These are weakly alkaline, chloride water (rich in Na and Cl), and the acidic sulphate water (due to the trapped underground water going through chemical reactions and boiling, which leads to the oxidation of hydrogen sulphide to sulphuric acid). Frying Pan Lake is quite odd as it consists of an unusual mix of the two acid-sulfate-chlorite waters with a pH <2.5.

New Zealand, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, stratovolcano, volcanology, field trip, geothermal, hot springs, mud pools, geysers, energy, boiling, gold deposit, metals, epithermal, waimangu, TVZ, silica sinter, sinter, extremophiles, frying pan lake, neutral chloride waters

Neutral chloride waters of Frying Pan Lake at Waimangu Geothermal Volcanic Valley, New Zealand

Further along the trail, but still hydraulically connected to Frying Pan Lake, is Inferno Crater. As a site of an old eruption through the flank of an ancient rhyolite dome, Inferno Crater has a distinctive horseshoe form and a brilliant blue colour that’s due to its shallow depth (30m) and fine suspended silica particles (Houghton 1982).

New Zealand, volcano, volcanoes, Taupo volcanic zone, taupo, geology, adventure, travel, stratovolcano, volcanology, field trip, geothermal, hot springs, mud pools, geysers, energy, boiling, gold deposit, metals, epithermal, waimangu, TVZ, silica sinter, sinter, extremophiles, frying pan lake, neutral chloride waters, blue water, suspended silica, Inferno crater

Suspended silica gives the brilliant blue colour of Inferno Crater at Waimangu Geothermal System, New Zealand

Final Thoughts:

Now that I’ve gone through the major geothermal sites, it really goes to show how diverse, bizarre and alien the Taupo Volcanic Region can be. Anyone who gets the chance to go to New Zealand should relish the opportunity to immerse themselves in this active, true geological wonder. It is well worth putting up with the rotten egg smell!

And wait, to finish off as I promised, I had to make a necessary stop just a hour north-west of Rotorua, and visit the meticulously  preserved Hobbiton set from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. Now, rather than me just writing about all the different scene and sets I saw, instead, enjoy all these pictures and embrace the nerdy-ness like I did.

Until next time New Zealand… Cheers!

Stephanie

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Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand

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Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand

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The Green Dragon at Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand

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The Green Dragon at Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand

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View of the Wind Mill in Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand

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Sam’s Home at Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand

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Party decorations at Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand

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A Hobbit Hole at Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand

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In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit…

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Bilbo and Frodo’s home of Bag End at Hobbiton from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, New Zealand

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