- Focus: To develop new exploration tools for mineral resouces by understanding the processes by which metals are concentrated in magmatic arcs.
- Funding: NERC
- Start date: 1 May 2017
- End date: 30 April 2022
The Museum is working with industrial and academic partners to develop new exploration tools that will help locate metal resources in volcanic arcs by understanding the fundamental processes involved in cycling magmas, fluids and metals in these zones.
Why do we need to look for new ore deposits?
Society is dependent on a reliable supply of metals and minerals for economic growth, improved standards of living, and development of infrastructure.
Discovering new ore deposits is increasingly difficult because most of the ores exposed at the Earth’s surface have already been found. Mineral exploration companies increasingly have to search for hidden deposits, concealed beneath up to a kilometre of barren rock.
New concepts, approaches and tools are required for the location and extraction of ores, with minimal environmental impact and financial risk to investors.
A new approach
The search for new ore deposits has to consider the 'ingredients', the processes and environments that favour their formation. Historically, most research has focused on the 'trap' in the Earth's shallow crust where the ore minerals are finally deposited.
The FAMOS project will focus deep in the Earth's crust, to probe the formation and evolution of the molten rocks (or magmas) that are ultimately responsible for some of the largest accumulations of metals on the planet. See the project approach page for more details.
Bridging the divide
The project combines a desire to understand fundamental processes about our planet works - how metals, magmas and fluids are cycled through subduction zones - with delivering outcomes that will benefit industry through improved exploration tools.
The project bridges the divide between academic and applied research in a way that is not normally possible through projects funded entirely by industry or entirely by government agencies. This bridging activity lies at the heart of the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) highlight topic funding scheme.
A multidisciplinary team of researchers has been assembled from the fields of economic geology, igneous and metamorphic petrology, volcanology, geochemistry, numerical modelling and fluid dynamics.
The project also has a diverse group of international scientific collaborators and the support of several of the world’s largest mineral exploration companies.
We are using a wealth of modern analytical tools from nine universities and research institutes around the UK that enable most of the elements in the periodic table to be measured.
Industry project partners
- Anglo American: Christian Ihlenfeld
- Olympus: Aaron Baensch
- Rio Tinto: Nick Hawkes
- Doug Kirwin
- Richard Sillitoe
- Zeiss: Eddy Hill
- SRK Consulting: James Gilbertson
- Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold: Mac Canby
- BHP: Cam McCuaig
- QPX: Andrew Ryan
- Elena Melekhova, David Schlaphorst, Jon Blundy, J.-Michael Kendall, Clare Connolly, Anders McCarthy, Richard Arculus (2019), Lateral variation in crustal structure along the Lesser Antilles arc from petrology of crustal xenoliths and seismic receiver functions; Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 516, 12-24
- Zhong, S., Feng, C., Seltmann, R., Li, D., Qu, H. (2018), Can magmatic zircon be distinguished from hydrothermal zircon by trace element composition? The effect of mineral inclusions on zircon trace element composition. Lithos, 314-315, 646-657
- Jackson MD, Blundy J, Sparks RSJ (2018), Chemical differentiation, cold storage and remobilization of magma in the Earth’s crust; Nature 564, 405-409
- O.Y. Plotinskaya, V.D. Abramova, E.O. Groznova, S.G. Tessalina, R. Seltmann and J. Spratt (2018), Trace-element geochemistry of molybdenite from porphyry Cu deposits of the Birgilda-Tomino ore cluster (South Urals, Russia); Mineralogical Magazine 82 (2), 281-306
- Olga Y. Plotinskaya,Oksana B. Azovskova,Sergei S. Abramov,Elena O. Groznova,Konstantin A. Novoselov,Reimar Seltmann,John Spratt (2018), Precious metals assemblages at the Mikheevskoe porphyry copper deposit (South Urals, Russia) as proxies of epithermal overprinting; Ore Geology Reviews 94, 239-260
- B.J. Williamson, A. Imai, R. Takahashi, R.N. Armstrong, M. Hodgkinson and R.J. Herrington (2018), Testing the Plagioclase Discriminator on the GEOROC Database to Identify Porphyry-Fertile Magmatic Systems in Japan; Resource Geology, 68, 138-143
- J.J. Wilkinson, D.R. Cooke, M.J. Baker, Z. Chang, C.C. Wilkinson, H. Chen, N. Fox, P. Hollings, N.C. White, J.B. Gemmell, M.A. Loader, A. Pacey, R.H. Sievwright, L.A. Hart and E.R. Brugge (2017), Porphyry indicator minerals and their mineral chemistry as vectoring and fertility tools; Geological Survey of Canada, Open File 8345
- Barbara Kunz, Open University was involved with Soapbox Science in Milton Keynes, June 2019. Watch the trailer on YouTube.
- FAMOS staff represented the project at the NHM’s flagship outreach event, European Researchers Night, at the NHM in September 2018.
- FAMOS representatives got involved with School's Day at the Imperial Festival, April 2018 to demonstrate the importance of water in subduction zones and its influence on magma generation, volcanism and mineralization.
- FAMOS researchers attended and presented at the SGA’s 15th Biennial Meeting at the University of Glasgow from the 27-30 August, 2019.
- Field sampling trip by David Holwell, Leicester University to the Italian Alps in June 2019 to sample the ‘sulfide trap’ in lower crustal cumulates of the Ivrea Zone.
- FAMOS researchers undertook fieldwork in Arizona, visiting porphyry deposits and investigating the intrusive rock suite in Arizona, June 2019.
- Jamie Wilkinson met with Giles Winn, advisor to the Chancellor, on 14 June 2019 to explain the importance of copper in renewable energy generation, the work on Cu deposits in the FAMOS project and the importance of NHM mineral collections to this effort.
- Dave Holwell, Leicester University, had a FAMOS related paper in @NatureComms on the 'metallogenic DNA' of post subduction magmatism. Why is it so gold and tellurium rich? And how are deep magmatic sulfide deposits related to shallow porphyry-epithermals?
- Fourth Progress Meeting held in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, 12-14 May 2019.
- Lawrence Carter (affiliated PhD project) presented at EGU conference, 7-12 April, Vienna, Austria.
- FAMOS-related research was presented as part of the annual LODE symposium which forms part of the project’s engagement activity with industry stakeholders. Senior staff from Anglo American, Rio Tinto and First Quantum were in attendance, March 2019.
- FAMOS researchers collected samples from the Quellaveco District, southern Peru, March 2019.
- FAMOS researchers undertook fieldwork in the Central Chilean Andes, March 2019.
- MSci thesis on apatite chemistry by FAMOS PhD student Chetan Nathwani reached the final of the Landmark Earth Model Award, February 2019.
- Jamie Wilkinson was invited to give the Harold Wilson Memorial Lecture to the Belfast Geologists' Society, supported by the Geological Survey Northern Ireland, 21 January 2019, Copper Giants: Geology, Genesis and new Pathways to Discovery.
- Members of the FAMOS consortium attended the Volcanic and Magmatic studies group annual meeting 8-10 January, University of St. Andrews.
- Jamie Wilkinson gave an invited talk at the annual Students into Mining Symposium at Imperial College, London, 27 January 2019, organised by the SEG Student Chapter, about research careers related to mining and mineral exploration.
- Members of the FAMOS consortium attended the Annual Winter Meeting of the Mineral Deposits Studies Group hosted by the Camborne School of Mines at the Penryn campus of Exeter University in Falmouth, Cornwall, 2-4 January 2019. David Holwell, Lawrence Carter and Chetan Nathwani gave FAMOS-related presentations, with Lawrence and Chetan winning the Rio Tinto student talk prizes. Well done to the team!