A review of the formation of tectonic veins and their microstructures

Paul D. Bons, Marlina A. Elburg, Enrique Gomez-Rivas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

507 Citations (Scopus)


Veins are common features in rocks and extremely useful structures to determine stress, strain, pressure, temperature, fluid composition and fluid origin during their formation. Here we provide an overview of the origin and terminology of veins. Contrary to the classical tripartite division of veins into syntaxial (inward growth), antitaxial (outward growth) and stretching veins (no consistent growth direction), we emphasise a continuum between syntaxial and stretching veins that form from the crack-seal process, as opposed to antitaxial veins that grow without the presence of an open fracture during growth. Through an overview of geochemical methods that can be applied to veins we also address the potential, but so far little-investigated link between microstructure and geochemistry. There are basically four mechanisms with increasing transport rates and concomitant decreasing fluid-rock interaction: (1) diffusion of dissolved matter through stagnant pore fluid; (2) flow of fluid with dissolved matter through pores; (3) flow of fluid with dissolved matter through fractures and (4) movement of fractures together with the contained fluid and dissolved matter (mobile hydrofractures). A vein system is rarely the product of a single transport and mineral precipitation mechanism, as these vary strongly both in space and time within a single system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-62
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Structural Geology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Fluid flow
  • Fractures
  • Rock failure
  • Tectonic veins
  • Vein growth
  • Vein microstructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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