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: 31 December 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.

View of the 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.


Project outputs


Progress meetings list (DOC, 25KB)


Katie McFall, Iain McDonald and Jamie J. Wilkinson Assessing the Role of Tectono-Magmatic Setting in the Precious Metal (Au, Ag, PGE) and Critical Metal (Te, Se, Bi) Endowment of Porphyry Cu Deposits SEG Special Publications, no. 24 (2022)  - this one isn’t readily available yet but I’ve attached the pdf so maybe could link to that somehow

Lawrence C. Carter, Ben J. Williamson Textural indicators of mineralisation potential in porphyry magmatic systems - A framework from the archetypal Yerington district, Nevada Ore Geology Reviews 143 (2022)

Chetan L. Nathwani, Jamie J. Wilkinson, George Fry, Robin N. Armstrong, Daniel J. Smith, Christian Ihlenfeld Machine learning for geochemical exploration: classifying metallogenic fertility in arc magmas and insights into porphyry copper deposit formation Mineralium Deposita (2022)

David A. Holwell, Marco L. Fiorentini, Thomas R. Knott, Iain McDonald, Daryl E. Blanks, T. Campbell McCuaig & Weronika Gorczyk Mobilisation of deep crustal sulfide melts as a first order control on upper lithospheric metallogeny Nature Communications 13 (2022)

Petrov O.V., Khanchuk A.I., Ivanov V.V., Shatov V.V., Seltmann R.*, Dolgopolova A.V., Alenicheva A.A., Molchanov A.V., Terekhov A.V., Leontev V.I., Belyatsky B.V., Rodionov N.V., Sergeev S.A. (2021) Porphyry Indicator Zircons (PIZ) and Geochronology of Magmatic Rocks from the Malmyzh and Pony Cu-Au Porphyry Ore Fields (Russian Far East) Ore Geology Reviews 139 (2021)

Sun Qing, Zhao Xiaobo, Xue Chunji, Seltmann Reimar, Symons David T.A.  (2021) Late Carboniferous – Early Permian mafic dikes and granitoids in the heart of the Western Tianshan Orogen, NW China: Implications for a tectonic transition from a syn- to post-collisional setting Lithos, 400-401 (2021)

Zhao WeiCe, Zhao XiaoBo, Xue ChunJi, Seltmann Reimar, Dolgopolova Alla, Andersen Jens C., Cui XinJie & Xing Ling (2021) Thermochronological constraints on the exhumation history of the Carboniferous Katebasu gold deposit, western Tianshan Gold Belt, NW China. Geological Society, London, Special Publications (2021)

Richard Herrington (2021) Mining our green future Nature Reviews Materials 6 (2021) 

Xuyang Meng, Jackie M. Kleinsasser, Jeremy P. Richards, Simon R. Tapster, Pedro J. Jugo, Adam C. Simon, Daniel J. Kontak, Laurence Robb, Grant M. Bybee, Jeffrey H. Marsh & Richard A. Stern (2021) Oxidized sulfur-rich arc magmas formed porphyry Cu deposits by 1.88 Ga Nature Communications 12, 2189 (2021)

Zhong Shihua, Li Sanzhong, Feng Chengyou, Liu Yongjiang, Santosh M., He Shuyue, Qu Hongying, Liu Guoyan, Seltmann R., Lai Zhiqing, Wang Xiaohong, Song Yingxin, Zhou Jie (2021) Porphyry copper and skarn fertility of the northern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau collisional granitoids Earth-Science Reviews 214 (2021)

Carter, L.C., Williamson, B.J., Tapster, S.R., Costa, C., Grime, G.W. & Rollinson, G.K. (2021) Crystal mush dykes as conduits for mineralising fluids in the Yerington porphyry copper district, Nevada. Communications Earth & Environment 2, 59 (2021)

Richard W. Thomas, Bernard J. Wood. (2021) The chemical behaviour of chlorine in silicate melts. Geochemica et Cosmochimica Acta, Volume 294 (2021)

Shihua Zhong, Sanzhong Li, Reimar Seltmann, Zhiqing Lai, Jie Zhou (2021) The influence of fractionation of REE-enriched minerals on the  zircon partition coefficients. Geoscience Frontiers Volume 12, Issue 3, May 2021

Chetan L. Nathwani, Adam T. Simmons, Simon J. E. Large, Jamie J. Wilkinson,  Yannick Buret, Christian Ihlenfeld (2021) From long-lived batholith construction to giant porphyry copper deposit formation: petrological and zircon chemical evolution of the Quellaveco District, Southern Peru, Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology volume 176, Article number: 12 (2021)

Penny E. Wiser, Frances Jenner, Marie Edmonds, John Maclennan, Barbara Kunz (2020) Chalcophile elements track the fate of sulfur at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Geochemica et Cosmochimica Acta, Volume 282, PP245-275

Daniel Cox; Sebastian F.L. Watt; Frances E. Jenner; Alan R. Hastie; Samantha J. Hammond; Barbara E. Kunz (2020) Elevated magma fluxes deliver high-Cu magmas to the upper crust Geology, v.48 Number 10

Penny E. Wiser, Marie Edmonds, John Maclennan, Frances E. Jenner, Barbara E. Kunz (2019) Crystal scavenging from mush piles recorded by melt inclusions Nature Communications, 10, 5797

D. Konopelko, R. Seltmann, A. Dolgopolova, I. Safonova, S. Glorie, J. De Grave, M. Sun, Adakite-like granitoids of Songkultau: A relic of juvenile Cambrian arc in Kyrgyz Tien Shan, Geoscience Frontiers, Volume 12, Issue 1, Ppges 147-160, ISSN 1674-9871, 

David A. Holwell, Marco Fiorentini, Iain McDonald, Yongjun Lu, Andrea Giuliani, Daniel J. Smith, Manuel Keith & Marek Locmelis (2019) A metasomatized lithospheric mantle control on the metallogenic signature of post-subduction magmatism; Nature Communications, 10, 3511

Chetan L. Nathwani, Matthew A. Loader, Jamie J. Wilkinson, Yannick Buret, Robert H. Sievwright and Pete Hollings (2020) Multi-stage arc magma evolution recorded by apatite in volcanic rocks; Geology, v.8

X-B. Zhao, Ch-J. Xue, R. Seltmann, A. Dolgopolova, J. C. Ø. Andersen, G-Zh. Zhang (2019) Volcanic-plutonic connection and associated Au-Cu mineralization of the Tulasu ore district, Western Tianshan, NW China: Implications for mineralization potential in Palaeozoic arc terranes Geological Journal Vol 55, Issue 3

Zhong, S., Feng, C., Seltmann, R., Qu, H., Song, Y. (2019); Characterisation of the zircon Ce anomaly for estimation of oxidation state of magmas: a revised Ce/Ce* method; Mineralogy and Petrology 113, Issue 6, pp755-763

Bo Zu, Reimar Seltmann, Chunji Xue, Tao Wang, Alla Dolgopolova, Chao Li, Limin Zhou, Nikolay Pak, Elena Ivleva, Mingchun Chai, Xiaobo Zhao (2019) Multiple episodes of Late Paleozoic Cu-Au mineralization in the Chatkal-Kurama terrane: New contraints from the Kuru-Tegerek and Bozymchak skarn deposits, Kyrgyzstan; Ore Geology Reviews 113

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


Richard Herrington gave oral evidence to the Lords Science and Technology Committee on 24 May 2021 on the role of batteries and fuel cells in achieving net zero.

Daniel Smith gave a talk to the Essex Rock and Mineral Society on raw materials for the green transition

FAMOS researchers were involved in the online event at the Natural History Museum on Can Mining Make the World a Greener Place? 4th December 2020

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

  • Members of the FAMOS consortium attended and presented at the online Mineral Deposits Study Group, 14-16th December 2020
  • Members of the FAMOS consortium were involved in the online event at the Natural History Museum: Can Mining Make the World a Greener Place? 4th December 2020
  • Members of the FAMOS consortium attended and presented at the online SEG Student Showcase, 2-19 November 2020
  • Seventh Progress Meeting held online, 2/3 November 2020
  • 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