In Striking It Rich with ‘Instant Gold’ (17 April 2013) Timothy L. Clarey points us to a Nature Geoscience paper called “Flash vaporization during earthquakes evidenced by gold deposits.” The gist is as follows:
The two scientists found that faulting events are key to gold deposit formation, where rocks split apart and quickly slip past one another, causing earthquakes. Faults through solid rock are never straight. Instead, they follow zigzag patterns that look like chain lightening and create small voids—openings in the rocks called “jogs.” Fast-forming jogs create instantaneous drops in pressure during movement, causing superheated deep waters to almost instantly “flash vaporize,” leaving behind thin coatings of gold and quartz.
Repeated earthquakes could build up the gold to levels that would be economical to mine. Clarey – who has apparently recently joined the ICR as a research associate – is naturally going to be very fond of such a mechanism. He says:
Creation scientists have proposed a scenario wherein the fault slip-recovery method of gold deposition occurred rapidly and often in the recent past. This produced commercial-sized deposits in decades or hundreds of years. Rapid plate motion and tremendous tectonic activity during and after the Flood of Noah would have caused almost innumerable slip-recovery events to have deposited masses of gold along small fault jogs and larger superfaults. This recent Nature Geoscience study helps show how commercial gold—and even the elusive mother lode—can be deposited so fast that it easily fits within a biblical timeframe.
The claim in the first two sentenses – that creationists have a model that would allow this to happen very rapidly – is cited to the Creation Science Fellowship’s 1994 “catastrophic plate tectonics” paper, which so far as I can tell doesn’t actually mention gold at all. I’m therefore interpreting Clarey’s comments as being just a roundabout way of saying “it could have happened during the Flood.”
The Nature Geosciences paper does give an estimation of the time required to create an economical deposit:
Assuming a seismic frequency history similar to that of, for example, the Alpine Fault system in the Southern Alps, New Zealand, the formation of one such deposit [containing 100 tonnes of gold] would take much less than 100,000 years.
Some evidence that this could be (and was) increased to accommodate the same sized – and even larger – deposits within a thousandths of that time would be nice, but Clarey does not oblige.