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Subduction zones reveal sulphur cycle and mineral potential

Posted March 18, 2014
Subduction zones reveal sulphur cycle and mineral potential
In the Persian Gulf, two tectonic plates-rigid pieces of the Earth’s crust-are colliding; the Arabian plate (lower left) is running up on the Eurasian plate (upper right). Credit: Banco de Imágenes Geológicas
Reasearch led by West Australian scientists into ‘subduction’ during tectonic plate collisions has provided new insights into the global sulphur cycle.

Subduction is a process that occurs at tectonic plate boundaries whereby one plate moves under the other and into the mantle as the two plates converge.

As a part of the subduction process material from the colliding tectonic plates is either ‘squeezed’ straight back out as a superheated fluid, transferred to the sub arc mantle as magma or deposited into the deeper mantle.

Curtin University researcher Dr Katy Evans says very little is known about the fundamental processes that occur in these subduction zones.

“This is one of the methods by which we cycle stuff that is on the outside of the earth onto the inside of the earth,” she says.

“The earth’s atmosphere and oceans are highly oxidised … so the process of subduction is taking stuff that’s quite oxidised and delivering it inside the earth to a place that’s quite reduced.

“We don’t really know what the potential consequences of that are.”

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