27. Earthquakes can create gold.
Scientists believe that stars created all of the elements on Earth. This notion is because the nuclear fusion that happens inside stars turns hydrogen into helium. Once the hydrogen stores are depleted, stars fuse increasingly heavier elements until they explode. In the explosions, elements like gold and platinum are formed. They gradually made their way to Earth through comets and asteroids. However, earthquakes can also create small amounts of gold. Who knew that Earthquakes had the Midas touch? There are seas of water inside Earth’s mantle, and when earthquakes happen, the water vaporizes and mixes with silica. A sudden drop in pressure in underground fractures causes the fluids to expand and evaporate in a process called flash vaporization.
The result is gold, though it is still trapped far beneath the Earth’s surface. Though it may not happen after one earthquake event, successive earthquakes in the same area can create a buildup of deposits and eventually lead to a significant gold concentration! Gold is usually found in quartz veins formed long ago when mountains were building up and deposited by large volumes of water along earthquake faults. Most gold mined already has been near, or on the Earth’s surface, so now miners are looking deeper into the crust. As scientists learn more about what creates these deposits, they can look for indications and guide their mining efforts.