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New magma modeling aids search for copper

By Brooks Hays
New magma modeling aids search for copper
Researchers in Switzerland have developed a model that better predicts the size of copper ore deposits. Photo by UNIGE

GENEVA, Switzerland, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Scientists have developed a new model of magma behavior. Researchers expect the simulations to aid the search for copper deposits.

Copper is one of the most technologically useful ores found in the ground, but scientists have struggled to find a way to locate the largest deposits. Copper ore deposits vary dramatically in size, despite a uniform ore formation process.

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Copper is deposited during the magma degassing process. As magma makes its way into the crust and begins the cooling and solidification process, water escapes, rising and carrying dissolved copper with it. Copper is deposited from the cooling magmatic fluids as they rise and make their way through and into rock fractures.

Researchers used their improved understanding of ore deposition to design a model simulating the degassing process.

"Comparing the model results with available data from known copper deposits, we could link the timescales of magma emplacement and degassing in the crust, the volume of magma, and the size of the deposit," Luca Caricchi, a researcher at the University of Geneva, said in a news release.

Researchers believe the algorithms used to build the degassing model -- detailed in the journal Scientific Reports -- will help improve the ability of high-precision geochronology systems to predict the size of ore deposits. The research may also improve insights into the relationship between degassing and volcanic eruptions.

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