Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Mineralization at oceanic transform faults and fracture zones

October 9, 2018

Mineral formation in the modern oceans can take place over millions of years as a result precipitation from ambient ocean water, or orders of magnitude more rapidly from hydrothermal activity related to magmatic and tectonic processes. Here, we review associations between transform faults and related fracture zones and marine minerals. We define marine transform faults as strike-slip or oblique faults that accommodate lateral offsets along plate boundaries or shifting crustal blocks, and fracture zones as relicts of transform faulting extending beyond mid-ocean ridge offsets. We consider specifically the modern ocean and exclude regions where the transform or fracture has clearly not generated the mineral deposit, such as the Clarion-Clipperton fracture zone manganese nodule field. As a result, the summarized deposits are mainly hydrothermal in origin.

Oceanic transform faulting has rarely been considered of interest for the mineralization and formation of ore deposits; however, there are locations in the modern oceans where transform faults and fracture zones are spatially related to mineral deposits. These occurrences suggest that transform faulting and fracture zones may be linked to mineralization at (A) intersections with other tectonic features, (B) where transform faults begin to resemble rifts through intra-transform crustal thinning, spreading, and the formation of pull-apart basins, and (C) as a result of serpentinization reactions due to exposure of deep-seated rocks by fracturing and faulting.