The formation, morphology, and economic potential of meteorite impact craters

Hans-Henrik Westbroek and Robert R. Stewart

ABSTRACT

One quarter of the known terrestrial impact craters are associated with economic deposits of some kind whether they are mineral ores, hydrocarbons or even evaporite minerals and fresh water. Detection of new structures is hindered by the apparent randomness of impact, terrestrial erosional processes, non-systematic search efforts, and that 30% of craters are buried. The vast expanse of the Earth's surface that is covered by oceans makes submarine detection difficult - only three submarine structures have been found to date. These economic deposits are classified asprogenetic, syngenetic and epigenetic deposits depending on formation characteristics and timing relative to the impact event. In some cases, the mechanics of crater formation itself may be conducive to economic material accumulation. When one considers the current impact rate, an average of four impact structures with diameters greater than 20 km are formed on the land surface every 5 million years. There is expected to be seven more impact structures with sizes on the order of the highly economic Sudbury and Vredefort structures. There is evidently good potential for further resource exploitation based on economic deposits associated with these structures.

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