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The jade deposits of Guatemala are located in the mountain ranges and river valleys of the Motagua Valley region east of the nation’s capital, Guatemala City. The deposits are associated with the Motagua fault zone and extend west for more than 250km from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala’s seaport on the Caribbean. The Motagua fault zone (a major left-lateral strike-slip fault) forms the boundary between the North American and the Caribbean tectonic plates. The North American plate is moving west (left) relative to the Caribbean plate. This is a similar geologic setting to the jade deposits in northern Myanmar (Burma) which have been in production for more than 400 years.

The Motagua fault and the numerous adjacent serpentine bodies form an east-west trending sheared tectonic zone about 10 to 40km wide by 100km along strike. Jadeite occurs as irregular vein-like bodies a few meters wide by tens of meters along strike, both in and adjacent to the serpentine bodies.

Serpentine is a rock formed from the metamorphic interaction of sea water with peridotite (upper mantle rock) along subduction zones. Jadeite forms directly from metamorphic fluids at a depth of 30km and a temperature of 150 to 400 degrees centigrade as the serpentine bodies are formed along these plate boundaries (Johnson and Harlow, 1999, p. 629-632).

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Regional Geologic Maps of Jadeite deposits

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