From arc magmas to ores (FAMOS): A mineral systems approach

Lead Research Organisation: The Natural History Museum
Department Name: Earth Sciences

Abstract

Society is dependent on a reliable supply of metals and minerals for economic growth, improved standards of living, and development of infrastructure. Population growth means that even with increased recycling and resource efficiency, new mineral deposits still need to be discovered. The efficient exploration for, and discovery of, new resources requires new concepts and new tools.
The Mineral Systems approach to exploration considers ore deposits on a lithospheric scale, in terms of the "ingredients", processes and environments that favour their formation. This approach amounts to a "source-pathway-trap" model, with an increased emphasis on predictive capacity, rather than just feature recognition. Historically, much research has focused on the trap, and characterisation of the ore deposits themselves; here we aim to focus deeper in the system by integrating ore deposit formation with concepts of magmatism that arise from igneous petrology and volcanology. Therein lies a challenge because extant models for porphyry systems are increasingly at odds with magmatic models for crustal construction and arc volcanism. Rather than seeing magmatic systems in terms of large, liquid-rich magma chambers, emerging petrological models for crustal magmatism are turning instead to crystal-dominated, volatile-bearing "mushy" systems that traverse most or all of the crust. The dynamics of such systems have important consequences not just for arc magmatism, but also for the chemistry of the volatiles that are exsolved. These same volatiles fuel mineralisation and this is the synergy that we aim to exploit by assembling a multidisciplinary team of researchers from economic geology, igneous and metamorphic petrology, volcanology, geochemistry, numerical modelling and fluid dynamics. Our team embraces almost everyone currently engaged in porphyry mineralisation research in the UK and capitalises on strong existing links between UK ROs and the mining industry, many of who are Project Partners.
The research will involve analysis of minerals from a wide variety of mineralised and barren settings using a wealth of modern analytical tools that enable determination of an extensive suite of trace elements and isotope tracers. As each trace element responds to magmatic processes in subtly different ways due to the affinity of different elements for different phases (minerals, melts and fluids), so the multi-element approach affords many advantages over conventional proxies in which the full potential of the Periodic Table is not exploited. The analysis of natural systems will be underpinned by high pressure and temperature experiments to establish the phase relationships of ascending arc magmas and the partition coefficients that capture the affinities of elements for certain phases. As fluid accumulation and migration is an essential, but poorly understood, final step in ore deposit formation, we will develop, in tandem with the geochemistry, numerical models for fluid-bearing mushy systems. Finally, consideration will be given to critical metals that are passengers through the main ore-forming processes, but constitute important, often under-explored, by-products of porphyry mineralisation.
The research proposed has a strong element of blue skies investigation, but a particular focus on outcomes that will benefit industry through improved exploration tools. Thus the project bridges the divide between academic and applied research in a way that is not normally possible through industry-funded projects. This bridging activity lies at the heart of the Highlight Topic call, specifically through the integration of new advances in the study of mineral systems, igneous petrology and geochemistry, with a view to identifying conditions that can act as pathfinders for new targets. A key outcome will be a range of trace element proxies that will enable the mining industry to establish the potential fertility of a magmatic arc on local to regional scales.

Planned Impact

We have taken an "embedded impact" approach with FAMOS. Stakeholders and beneficiaries have been involved with the development of the project from its initiation (including the initial Highlight Topic suggestion). The scientific content of the proposal was developed in discussion with representatives from industry, and the final consortium has assembled an Advisory Board that includes industry representatives so as to maintain two-way knowledge exchange and ensure development of impact. We have also engaged an international set of project partners (PP) who will extend the reach of our impact (see letters of support). The embedded impact will be delivered through various activities to support outreach, engagement and dissemination.

The key impact goal for FAMOS is to improve discovery rates of porphyry deposits by aiding exploration under cover, influencing decision making in the exploration process, reducing exploration risk and reducing the environmental impacts of drilling and associated disruptive fieldwork through more efficient prospectivity assessment.

There are four impact objectives within FAMOS:

1) A revised Mineral Systems model of porphyry deposit formation. This will lead to improved targeting at regional and igneous complex scales and better inputs to national strategies on mineral resources. Beneficiaries include PRIVATE SECTOR COMPANIES involved in mining, exploration and consultancy (e.g. PPs Anglo American, Rio Tinto, BHPBilliton, Freeport McMoRan), and NATIONAL AGENCIES charged with encouraging exploration and developing strategic resources (e.g. BGS and PP USGS).

2) New proxies for porphyry fertility. This will provide low-cost tools and approaches that will support improved decision-making during exploration. By using multiple proxies within a single sample, more data-rich exploration is possible, and in turn less sampling is required and less environmental impact is caused. Beneficiaries will include PRIVATE SECTOR COMPANIES involved in exploration, consultancy, and the provision of data and analytical equipment to industry (i.e. service companies, e.g. see PPs Olympus, Zeiss and SRK ES letters of support).

3) E-tech elements in porphyries. We will generate vital data for better global and national e-tech resource estimation. This facilitates improved targeting for specific e-techs during exploration, and improved metallurgical characterisation of them. Beneficiaries will be GOVERNMENT AGENCIES who advise on resource strategy (e.g. BGS, PP USGS), and POLICY MAKERS IN GOVERNMENT planning future clean energy strategies. PRIVATE SECTOR COMPANIES exploring for resources (see PP Anglo American letter of support) and end-users of e-techs will benefit through improved strategic knowledge of future supplies and the WIDER PUBLIC will gain through support of sustainable environmental technologies for a low-carbon society.

4) Outreach, education and training. We have planned activities to increase public understanding of resource issues (discovery, depletion, environmental and social impacts, the 'e-tech' concept), particularly through NHM outreach, and activities to encourage the uptake of the new model and proxies with professional geoscientists through training workshops, short courses and engagement at high profile conferences. Beneficiaries include the WIDER PUBLIC, PRIVATE SECTOR COMPANIES as publicly traded bodies and employers of skilled professionals and PROFESSIONAL BODIES such as the IOM3 and Mineral Deposits Studies Group (see letter of support) who support training and professional development for their members.

Publications

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Blundy, J. (2018) FAMOS - WP2 '5 min update'

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Carter, L. (2018) Extracting and focusing fluids

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Jackson, M. D. (2018) Melt segregation in mush reservoirs

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Jackson, M.D. (2018) FAMOS - WP3 '5 min update'

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Pinnick J. (2017) NGDC Data Management Planning

 
Description Research objectives in relation to industry applications have been explained to UK government science advisors, Department for International Trade and the Chilean ambassador with respect to project activities in Chile.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Other
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Funding PhD student Emily Brugge at Imperial College and The Natural History Museum
Amount £35,000 (GBP)
Organisation Rio Tinto Group 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 03/2020
 
Description Funding PhD student Emily Brugge at Imperial College and The Natural History Museum
Amount £94,776 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 03/2020
 
Description Funding for PhD student Catherine Booth at Imperial College
Amount £96,292 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 03/2022
 
Description Funding for PhD student Chetan Nathwani at Imperial College and The Natural History Museum
Amount £27,300 (GBP)
Organisation Rio Tinto Group 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 03/2022
 
Description Funding for PhD student Tom Matthews at Imperial College and The Natural History Museum
Amount £35,000 (GBP)
Organisation Rio Tinto Group 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 03/2022
 
Description Anglo American - Los Bronces district, Chile 
Organisation Anglo American PLC
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The research team will analyse individual accessory minerals, using microanalytical techniques, in order to isolate signals that represent specific time increments in the evolution of the magma chambers or mush zones sourcing mineralizing fluids with the aim of confidently being able to assess the likely fertility of a magmatic arc segment, or of individual intrusive centres within a district, at an early stage of exploration.
Collaborator Contribution Anglo American has agreed to grant access to the Los Bronces district and make available confidential data and information for the study. Anglo American will provide the team with logistical field support, certain general geological and geochronological data relating to the Rio-Blanco-Los Bronces district. Anglo American representative David Braxton gave a presentation in November 2018 highlighting key areas of research of relevance to mineral exploration activities to help guide the programme.
Impact The research team are currently undergoing fieldwork at the Los Bronces mine.
Start Year 2017
 
Description BHP 
Organisation BHP Billiton
Country Australia 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Presented initial project results to representatives from BHP in May and November 2018, highlighting industry-relevant aspects.
Collaborator Contribution BHP agreed to open up project results from two PhD projects they are supporting and provide access to samples from several of their operations.
Impact None
Start Year 2018
 
Description Quantum Pacific Exploration Chile (QPXC) - Fertility Fingerprints Project 
Organisation Quantum Pacific Exploration SpA
PI Contribution A postdoctoral research associate - Dr Matthew Loader - has been affiliated to the FAMOS team and will be sharing the results of his relevant ongoing research project with the consortium. He is working full time collecting mineral chemistry data on a suite of samples from Northern and Central Chile that will bring a wider context to our planned case studies in Chile. To date, a number of whole rock analyses and a large number of major and trace element analyses have been completed on zircon and apatite separates.
Collaborator Contribution The project is fully funded by an industry partner, QPXC, and is worth around £320,000 as an in-kind contribution to the project. They are also supplying the time of a project manager within the company, technical input on results, samples, and additional geological data.
Impact Exploration tools based on whole rock multivariate geochemistry have been delivered to the sponsor.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Rio Tinto 
Organisation Rio Tinto Group
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We presented initial project results to representatives from the partner companies in May and November 2018, highlighting industry-relevant aspects.
Collaborator Contribution Rio Tinto agreed to fully open up two PhD projects they are supporting, including results obtained from their own in-house mineral separate samples.
Impact No outputs to report yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Development of FAMOS website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Development of website including information on the project collaborators, project outline, project outputs and project updates.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/our-work/sustainability/from-arc-magmas-to-ores.html
 
Description Development of Twitter account @FAMOS_ores 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Development of Twitter account @FAMOS_ores including information on project outputs, conference participation and project updates
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Promoting FAMOS (PDAC) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Members of FAMOS team attended the PDAC convention and promoted FAMOS research to industry and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Promoting FAMOS - Exploration 17 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Members of the FAMOS consortium attended the Exploration 17, Decennial Mining Exploration Conference in Toronto to promote FAMOS research to industry and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.exploration17.com/Program-Schedule.aspx
 
Description Promoting FAMOS - Harold Wilson Memorial Lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Jamie Wilkinson gave a lecture at the Harold Wilson Memorial Lecture supported by Geological Survey Northern Ireland "Copper Giants: Geology, Genesis and new Pathways to Discovery", Imperial College London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Promoting FAMOS - Imperial College Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Members of the FAMOS consortium had a "How water fuels volcanoes" stand at the outreach event at the Imperial College Festival, April 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/186026/imperial-festival-gold-mine-earth-science/
 
Description Promoting FAMOS - NHM "European Researchers Night" 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact FAMOS staff represented the project at Then Natural History Museum's flagship outreach event, "European Researchers Night", September 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Promoting FAMOS - SEG 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Members of the FAMOS consortium attended SEG 2017 "Ore deposits of China and Beyond" conference to promote FAMOS research with industry and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.segweb.org/SEG/Events/SEG_Conference_Archives/SEG/_Events/SEG_Conference_Archives.aspx?h...
 
Description Promoting FAMOS - SEG 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Members of the FAMOS consortium attended SEG 2018 "Metals, Minerals and Society" conference to promote FAMOS research with industry and academics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.segweb.org/SEG/_Events/Conference_Archive/2018/Website/index.html
 
Description Promoting FAMOS - SGA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Members of the FAMOS team attended the 14th SGA Biennial Meeting in Quebec City, Canada and promoted FAMOS research to industry and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://sga2017.ca/
 
Description Promoting FAMOS - Students into Mining Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Jamie Wilkinson gave an invited talk at the annual Students into Mining Symposium at Imperial College, London, January 2019, organised by the SEG Student Chapter, about research careers related to mining and mineral exploration and gave a summary of the FAMOS research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Promoting FAMOS - Symposium of Society of Resource Geology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Member of the FAMOS Consortium attended the International Symposium of the 67th Annual Meeting of the Society of Resource Geology to promote FAMOS research with industry and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.gipc.akita-u.ac.jp/~yasushiwatanabe/images/porphyry.pdf