Structural geology

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Structural geology is the study of the three-dimensional distribution of rock units with respect to their deformational histories. The primary goal of structural geology is to use measurements of present-day rock geometries to uncover information about the history of deformation (strain) in the rocks, and ultimately, to understand the stress field that resulted in the observed strain and geometries. This understanding of the dynamics of the stress field can be linked to important events in the regional geologic past; a common goal is to understand the structural evolution of a particular area with respect to regionally widespread patterns of rock deformation (e.g., mountain building, rifting) due to plate tectonics.


Use and importance

The study of geologic structures has been of prime importance in economic geology, both petroleum geology and mining geology.[1] Folded and faulted rock strata commonly form traps for the accumulation and concentration of fluids such as petroleum and natural gas. Faulted and structurally complex areas are notable as permeable zones for hydrothermal fluids and the resulting concentration areas for base and precious metal ore deposits. Veins of minerals containing various metals commonly occupy faults and fractures in structurally complex areas. These structurally fractured and faulted zones often occur in association with intrusive igneous rocks. They often also occur around geologic reef complexes and collapse features such as ancient sinkholes. Deposits of gold, silver, copper, lead, zinc, and other metals, are commonly located in structurally complex areas.

Structural geology is a critical part of engineering geology, which is concerned with the physical and mechanical properties of natural rocks. Structural fabrics and defects such as faults, folds, foliations and joints are internal weaknesses of rocks which may affect the stability of human engineered structures such as dams, road cuts, open pit mines and underground mines or road tunnels.

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