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Most sediments are mixtures of many heterogeneous compounds and are chemically unstable. Low temperature and pressure may permit a sediment to remain in metastable conditions for hundreds of millions of years, but normally changes occur, leading to the separation of different chemical compounds, with water and organic matter as the chief agents of change. The passive or active behavior of these agents decides the direction and type of particular diagenetic processes, but the general tendency is an unmixing of unstable mixtures. This process is associated with the liberation of a very large amount of material from one sedimentary series and its introduction elsewhere, commonly with replacement by other rock material on a large scale.
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