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: 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

International academic partners


Workpackage one

The rock record

Workpackage three

Numerical modelling


FAMOS updates

  • 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