Hydrothermal alteration is proximal to many base and precious metal deposits, and its products can provide insights into the characteristics of hydrothermal systems. To be useful to exploration geologists and researchers, however, alteration needs to be typified and quantified. Alteration type informs on mineralising style (e.g., have we found a porphyry or a volcanogenic massive sulphide deposit?), while quantification of its intensity helps position a sample within the system (e.g., how close are we to the main economic deposit?). Numerous methods—all having their specific advantages and disadvantages—are dedicated to the characterisation of alteration. As alteration is a process that induces chemical and mineralogical changes in rocks, it can be studied using petrological (e.g., mineral recognition in thin sections, mineral chemistry), mineralogical (e.g., alteration indices that use normative minerals), and chemical (e.g., mass balance calculations) approaches. This short review provides an overview of the methods useful to researchers and that are also applicable in an exploration context.
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