Welcome to the Mineral Deposit Research Unit
The Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU) is a collaborative venture between the mining industry and The University of British Columbia (UBC). The unit, which was established in 1989 with support and financial assistance from the mining industry and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), is an important part of the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and an internationally recognized research group devoted to solving mineral exploration-related problems. (read more)
New Initiatives and Research Opportunities
Carbonate-hosted mineral deposits generally have relatively narrow and poorly-developed alteration footprints. However, interactions between hydrothermal fluids and carbonate rocks are recorded by carbon and oxygen isotopes within the carbonate host rocks and veins. This isotopic alteration footprint tends to extend well beyond the limits of ore and visible alteration, as well as geochemical anomalies.
MDRU has initiated a three-year, industry-sponsored research project to test the application of stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios in carbonate rocks. In order to maximize potential application to exploration, this project will utilize a new, field-portable instrument that MDRU has developed. This project is of benefit to companies exploring for carbonate-hosted deposits, who recognize the potential to apply new technology and new approaches to improve targeting and vectoring towards mineralization.
Mining and exploration companies in Latin America increasingly need to
recruit skilled geologists. There are shortages of highly-qualified
personnel because of the general lack of accessibility to post-graduate
programs and systemic weakness in the educational system. Likewise,
university-based research that addresses exploration issues is limited in
many countries by the lack of funding, limited senior research staff
and/or access to analytical facilities. MDRU, together with partner
institutions in Santiago, Chile, is establishing AMRU/CIMA to contribute
knowledge and expertise to help meet the skill shortages and improve
economic geology research throughout the Andean region.
This initiative has been encouraged by the mineral exploration industry
and seeks to address a fundamental issue that industry currently faces in
many Andean Countries.
For more information on this initiative, please contact Thomas Bissig.
Building on successes of the recently completed Yukon Gold Project, MDRU are further developing the regional geological and metallogenic framework for poorly understood portions of the northern Cordillera. MDRU are initiating a new research project that extends and applies the knowledge and expertise generated in the White Gold and Dawson Range districts of west-central Yukon into parts of east and central Alaska such as the Fortymile and Goodpaster districts. The framework for intrusion-related and orogenic gold systems developed in this project will be of direct beneﬁt to exploration targeting and deposit characterization over a broad geographic region.
Porphyry indicator minerals (PIMS) display unique physical and chemical properties that allow their presence in surﬁcial materials to be linked back to a porphyry deposit, related intrusion or alteration assemblage. The common occurrence of resistate minerals, e.g., apatite, rutile, zircon, titanite, garnet and titanomagnetite, in porphyry deposits indicates that these minerals can be utilized as indicators for mineralization in covered terranes.
Ultramaﬁc mine waste has an inherent but untapped capacity to permanently trap the green-house gas carbon dioxide (CO2) thus affording environmental and regulatory beneﬁt through greenhouse gas offsets or trading credits. Carbon uptake results from the large reactive surface areas generated by comminution. Carbon ﬁxation is therefore directly attributable to mine operations. Carbon is ﬁxed in mineral precipitates, thus sequestering it from the atmosphere. These reactions happen spontaneously and are affected by the mineralogy of mine tailings, the local climate, and the way that tailings are processed, transported, deposited, and stored. To achieve meaningful offsets of mine emissions, carbon ﬁxation reactions must be accelerated. This project will build on more than a decade of research at MDRU and seeks to enhance the reactivity of tailings minerals with CO2 by examining opportunities in the mining cycle from comminution to tailings storage.
Project Concept 1:
Host Rock Fertility Porphyry-style Cu±Au mineralization and related visible hydrothermal alteration is typically distributed across less than 15% of the host-magmatic system, presenting a challenging target that often requires multiple phases of drilling to delineate. This project will thoroughly investi-gate and expand previously-suggested criteria that support discrimination of barren from metal-fertile systems, based on the geochemistry of porphyry-style host rocks (see Figure 1). By assessing fertility using rocks widely distributed outside of the hydrothermal footprint, this project will provide conﬁdence in “keep-exploring” or “walk-away” decisions very early in the porphyry exploration cycle.
Project Concept 2:
Zircon Fertility Following and expanding another previously-suggested approach (Ballard), the project will develop zircon geochemistry to discriminate barren from metal-fertile signals, in particular through the regional magmatic evolution. Examples from El Teniente and Yanacocha (Figures 2 & 3) illustrate that province-scale or project-scale metal-fertile epochs or events can be deﬁned with relative ease using traditional heavy-mineral sampling techniques at localities distant from porphyry footprints. The application would be applicable in virgin or developed porphyry-style belts and requires zircon trace-element analysis and (optional) U-Pb zircon dating with existing LA-ICP-MS protocols.
Large-tonnage high sulﬁdation epithermal Au-Ag deposits are hosted by intensely altered rocks forming part of a so-called lithocap. The ores are hosted within zones of residual quartz (a.k.a.,vuggy silica) that is the result of intense acid-leaching alteration. However, not all zones of residual quartz alteration and not all lithocaps host gold mineralization. This project will establish criteria to distinguish barren from mineralized lithocaps. This will be done using geochemical methods as well as by identiﬁcation of pathﬁnder minerals and their mineralogical and geochemical characteristics. The study of these pathﬁnder minerals will also provide important vectoring criteria within lithocaps. A new methodology that allows rapid identiﬁcation of pathﬁnder minerals derived from the erosion of high-sulﬁdation epithermal deposits in stream sediment samples will also be established. The most abundant mineral in lithocaps is quartz. Thus, emphasis will be placed on the recognition of different types of quartz present in lithocaps, and on establishing criteria for identifying quartz potentially related to mineralization.