From Arc Magmas to Ores (FAMOS)

Project summary

  • 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.

Rosario mine

View of the Rosario mine, Collahuasi district, northern Chile. This is a typical porphyry-copper deposit mined by open pit methods. The pit is 2.3 kilometres across and the excavated waste rock and ore stockpiles have been deposited to the west of the mine.©Google Earth


The team

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: Todd Houlahan
  • Rio Tinto: Nick Hawkes
  • Doug Kirwin
  • Richard Sillitoe
  • Zeiss: Eddy Hill
  • SRK Consulting: James Gilbertson
  • Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold: Mac Canby
  • BHP: Cam McCuaig

International academic partners


Workpackage one

The rock record

Workpackage three

Numerical modelling

Project outputs




  • Chetan Nathwani gave a live talk on the NHM YouTube channel about valuable metals and how we will depend on them for a greener future called Down the Mines.
  • Jamie Wilkinson published an article in The Lee Newsletter, April 2020, p. 18-20 entitled ‘A Life with minerals’. 
  • Jamie Wilkinson, Jon Blundy, Matt Jackson and Dan Smith co-edited an article on FAMOS-related research for Futurum which produces online and print articles and outreach resources to encourage young people into STEM/STEMM/STEAM subjects.
  • 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.

Chetan Nathwani gives a live talk on the NHM YouTube channel about valuable metals and how we will depend on them for a greener future.

FAMOS updates

  • Sixth Progress Meeting held online, 11 May 2020
  • Chetan Nathwani presented results of his Central Chile apatite study at the online EGU meeting, 4 May 2020
  • Members of FAMOS consortium attended the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention in Toronto from 1-4 March 2020.
  • Field sampling trip by Andrew Miles and affiliated PhD student Geoge Stonadge, Leicester University to Pinatubo, Taal and the Dizon and Santo Tomas II mines in the Philippines,Feb/March 2020.
  • Members of the FAMOS consortium attended and presented at the Volcanic and Magmatic studies group annual meeting 7-9 January, University of Plymouth
  • Members of the FAMOS consortium attended the Annual Winter Meeting of the Mineral Deposits Studies Group hosted by The Natural History Museum, London, 6-8 January 2020. Affiliated PhD students won prizes including Chetan Nathwani for the best talk and Emily Brugge for the best poster
  • Updates from previous years


    • Fifth Progress Meeting held in Leicester, 4-5 November 2019
    • FAMOS researchers attended and presented at SEG 2019, Santiago, 7-10 October 2019
    • Lawrence Carter (affiliated PhD student) was awarded the student poster prize at SEG 2019, Santiago, 7-10 October 2019
    • Reimar Seltmann gave a keynote talk entitled ‘Line rocks in rare metal granites as expression of fluid saturation and rhythmic crystallization’ at the 9th Hutton Symposium on Granites, Nanjing, October 2019
    • Barbara Kunz, Open University, won the Outstanding Technician of the Year at THE Awards 2019.
    • 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!
    • Third Progress Meeting held in London 5-6 November 2018. 
    • Members of the FAMOS consortium attended the SEG Conference on Metals, Minerals and Society in Keystone, USA from 22-25 September 2018.
    • Daniel Smith, Leicester University, has been acting as the Mineralogical Society of Great Britain & Ireland Distinguished Lecturer for the year, and has delivered a talk on FAMOS at a number of locations, including universities, public special interest groups, student societies, and the BGS BUFI science festival.
    • Members of the FAMOS consortium attended the Geochemistry of Mineral Deposits Gordon Research Conference in New Hampshire from 5-10 August 2018.
    • Second Progress Meeting held in Leicester 13-15 May 2018.
    • Members of FAMOS consortium attended the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention in Toronto from 4-7 March 2018.


UK Academic Institutes

Industry Project Partners

International Academic Partners