Gossan(redirected from Iron cap)
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(iron hat), a residual formation that occurs in the surface parts of ore (primary sulfide) deposits of copper, lead, zinc, and other metals as a result of chemical weathering and oxidation of the primary minerals of the ore body. Gossans consist primarily of iron oxides and hydrous iron oxides (goethite, hydrogoethite, hydrohematite, turgite), and as a result they are usually dark or light red, ocherous, or brownish red in color. The formation of gossans is associated with the oxidizing action of surface waters and is accompanied by the secondary enrichment of ore deposits. In the process of weathering, the sulfides of copper, silver, zinc, and other metals oxidize to easily soluble sulfates, after which they are leached and carried to deeper parts of the ore body. At the same time the iron in sulfurous compounds—pyrite, chalcopyrite, and other sulfides—is only partially removed in the form of a soluble salt (sulfate of iron oxide); most of the iron is oxidized and hydrated and remains in place in the form of hydrates of iron oxide (brown iron ores). These secondary brown iron ores, occurring as a result of the transformation of original pyritic and other ores containing iron sulfides, are what form the gossans near the earth’s surface. The depth at which gossans are found beneath the earth’s surface is usually restricted to the groundwater level and may extend to dozens or even hundreds of meters. In comparison with initial sulfide ores gossans are richer in iron in their upper parts and in gold in their lower parts. Contrasting strongly with the enclosing rocks, gossans serve as an important indicator in explorations for sulfide-ore deposits and in identifying the primary ores concealed in the depths.
REFERENCESSmirnov, S. S. Zona okisleniia sul’fidnykh mestorozhdenii, 3rd ed. Moscow-Leningrad, 1955.
Saukov, A. A. Geokhimiia, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1966.
G. A. SOKOLOV