Detrital mineral records of magmatism and fertility in porphyry copper districts

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Primary Supervisor:

Jamie Wilkinson

Earth Sciences Department, NHM

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Project Description:

The aim of the project is to examine and understand the mineral chemistry and geochronology of igneous and alteration minerals (e.g. zircon, apatite, epidote) from the mineralized centres of the Quellaveco porphyry-copper ore district, Peru, and their transition, dilution and survival in drainage samples in order to develop effective exploration screening tools for porphyry ore systems. Key questions to be addressed in this research include: (1) Can district-scale detrital sampling provide a high resolution time-series dataset that can yield deeper insights into the long-term temporal evolution of arc magmatic systems that generate fertile porphyry ore systems than are currently available? (2) What are the characteristics of drainage minerals downstream of superior value mineralisation as opposed to smaller and less economic occurrences? (3) Can the effects of anthropogenic and mining related disturbances be compensated for during down-stream sampling? (4) What is an optimised workflow for drainage sampling, preparation and analysis to ensure that representative populations for key indicator minerals are obtained? (5) Is there an opportunity to further expand our understanding of mineral chemistry using fluid inclusion work? The project will be carried out in conjunction with project partner Anglo American plc and provides an excellent opportunity to collaborate with active exploration geology teams in one of the world’s most important porphyry districts.

Policy Impact of Research:

Porphyry deposits are the world’s major source of copper and other critical metals essential for the green energy transition. Understanding what controls the location of such deposits, recognizing the prospectivity of an area before costly and invasive exploration has taken place, and exploring efficiently are important for reducing risk, energy use and environmental impact. This research will inform improved and sustainable mineral exploration practices and aid in new resource discovery.

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