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Project Information

  • Ore Deposit: Carlin-type, CRD, Epithermal, Hydrothermal, MVT, Porphyry, Skarn
  • Commodity: Copper, Gold, Lead, Silver, Zinc
  • Research Themes: Base Metals, Exploration Methods, Gold Deposits
  • Location: Peru; Nevada, Washington, USA; British Columbia, Canada
  • Project Status: Active
  • Start Date: 2012
  • End Date: 2018

MDRU are global leaders in understanding and exploring for hydrothermal ore systems in carbonate-rich regions. Our researchers have developed new techniques and tools, such as the application of abundant stable isotope data from our internally developed Mineral Isotope Analyser (MDRU-MIA), which helps us map cryptical hydrothermal alteration footprints in calcareous rocks around a wide variety of hydrothermal ore deposits. Rock context is key, and we dedicate significant effort to understanding the rock and veins using UV, petrographic, mineralogic and geochemical methods. We are developing new exploration strategies and methods and to build case studies of carbonate hosted mineral deposits footprints.

Hydrothermally-altered host rocks that surround ore deposits form large, up to kilometer-scale, concentric haloes that define the alteration footprint that characterizes many ore deposit types such as porphyry, VMS, epithermal, skarn, Carlin and orogenic gold deposits. The isotope alteration footprint usually extends well-beyond ore and other types of visible and mineralogical alteration as well as lithogeochemical anomalies (e.g., silicification, decarbonitization, clay alteration).

Previously, the high cost and the slow laboratory turn-around precluded effective use of stable isotopes as a practical tool in an exploration program. In response to this problem, MDRU researchers developed a new, proprietary prototype analytical tool, the Mineral Isotope Analyser (MDRU-MIA), that allows for very rapid determinations of carbon and oxygen isotope ratios in carbonate minerals and altered whole rocks. This innovative analytical method allows stable isotope data to play a key role in exploration tool sets.

This collaborative research project with the minerals and exploration industry will include case studies to assess the applications of the MDRU-MIA and other newly accessible technologies for use in mineral exploration and best practice sampling techniques.  In particular, these studies will:

  • Determine the size and intensity of carbon and oxygen isotope alteration footprints for different deposit types hosted in carbonate rocks (e.g. Carlin-type, porphyry, skarn, carbonate-replacement);
  • Assess fluid flow pathways between known intrusive-related deposits and distal deposits hosted in carbonate rock, which aids exploration targeting by identifying cryptic fluid flow pathways that can vector to ore;
  • Evaluate the hypothesis that isotopic composition of the carbonate alteration halo associated with orogenic gold deposits can be used to vector towards orogenic-style mineralization; and
  • Design optimal sampling protocols and strategies for determining stable isotope halos in different deposit settings.

Download the flyer on MDRU Mineral Isotope Analyser and stable isotope analyses.

Most results from the project are available only to the project sponsors, however the theses and many posters and presentations are publicly available.


Large-Scale Stable Isotope Alteration Around the Hydrothermal Carbonate-Replacement Cinco de Mayo Zn-Ag Deposit, Mexico
Beinlich, A., Barker, S.L.L., Dipple, G.M., Hansen, L.D., and Megaw, P.K.M. (2019)
Economic Geology, 2019, v. 119, p. 375-396.

Exploring for Carbonate-Hosted Ore Deposits Using Carbon and Oxygen Isotopes
Barker, S.L.L., and Dipple, G.M. (2019)
In: Ore Deposits: Origin, Exploration and Exploitation, Geophysical Monograph 242, First Edition, edited by Sophie Decree and Laurence Robb. American Geophysical Union. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Carbonate Alteration Footprints of Carbonate-Hosted Zinc-Lead Deposits in Southeastern British Columbia (NTS082F/03): Applying Carbon and Oxygen Isotopes
Cook, N.L. and Hart, C.J.R. (2015)
Geoscience BC Summary of Activities 2014, Geoscience BC, Report 2015-1, p.95–102.

Discovering Carbonate-hosted Zn-Pb Deposits in Southeastern British Columbia: Applying C and O Isotopes
Cook, N.L. and Hart, C.J.R. (2015)
Roundup 2015 Poster

Preliminary stable isotope and geochemical investigation of carbonate in the Klondike district
Murray M. Allan, M.A., Mortensen, J.K., and Cook, N. (2013)
Yukon Exploration and Geology

Fault-Controlled Lateral Fluid Flow Underneath and Into a Carlin-Type Gold Deposit: Isotopic and Geochemical Footprints
Kenneth A. Hickey, Ayesha D. Ahmed, Shaun L.L. Barker, and Robert Leonardson
Economic Geology, v. 109, pp. 1431–1460


Technical Meeting 2 – 2015 January 28th, Vancouver, BC

MDRU Mineral Isotope Analyzer LGR CCIA-46 – Progress Update
Andreas Beinlich

Carbonate Alteration Footprints Project – Case Studies
Natalie Cook, Andreas Beinlich, Farhad Bouzari, Murray Allan, Greg Dipple, Craig Hart

Carbonate Alteration Footprints of Carbonate-hosted Zn-Pb Deposits: Applying C and O Isotopes
Natalie Cook

The Stable Isotope Footprint of the Cinco de Mayo Zn-Ag Carbonate Replacement Deposit, Mexico – An update
Andreas Beinlich, Shaun Barker, Greg Dipple, Craig Hart

Carbonate Alteration Footprint at Red Lake Gold Mines, Ontario
Farhad Bouzari, with contributions from by Gruffuud Roberts, Elizabeth Stock, Dick Tosdal, Craig Hart and Greg Dipple

Evidence for stable isotope recycling in the Klondike orogenic gold system?
Murray Allan, Natalie Cook, Jim Mortensen, Andreas Beinlich, Craig Hart

Sleuthing an Unexposed Carbonate-Hosted Porphyry System with Stable Isotopes
Craig Hart

Technical Meeting 1 – 2014 January 29th, Vancouver, BC

Andreas Beinlich, Craig Hart, Greg Dipple, Shaun Baker, Ken Hickey and Natalie Cook

Case study – isotopic alteration around Carlin-type gold deposits, northern Carlin Trend, Nevada

Stable Isotopic Characteristics of Nadaleen Trend Carlin-type Gold Deposits using Carbon & Oxygen Isotopes
Michael Tucker and Craig Hart

Stable isotope footprints and an example from Cinco de Mayo Zn-Ag carbonate replacement deposit, Mexico
Andreas Beinlich, Shaun Barker, Greg Dipple and Craig Hart


Stable Isotope (δ13C, δ18O)Analysis of Sulfide-bearing Carbonate Samples Using Laser Absorption Spectrometry
Andreas Beinlich, Shaun L.L. Barker, Gregory M. Dipple, Manish Gupta, and Douglas S. Baer (2017)
Economic Geology, v. 112, p. 693-700

Mineral Isotope Analyzer Progress Update
Andreas Beinlich


Stable Isotopes as an Exploration Tool: Tracking Cryptic Alteration Surrounding the Iscaycruz Zn (Pb-Cu-Ag) Skarn-CRD deposit, Central Peru
Samuel Cantor, Craig Hart, Greg Dipple, Abraham Escalante, James Mortensen (2018)
MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC. Presented at RFG 2018, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Stable Isotopes as an Exploration Tool: Tracking Cryptic Alteration Surrounding the Iscaycruz Zn (Pb-Cu-Ag) Skarn-CRD deposit, Central Peru
Samuel Cantor, Craig J.R. Hart, Gregory Dipple, Abraham Escalante, James Mortensen (2018)
MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC. Presented at SEG 2018, Keystone, CO, USA.

Luminescence in Mineral Exploration: Techniques, Pitfalls and Guidance
Samuel Cantor (2018)
MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC. Presented at AME Roundup, Zinc Short Course, Vancouver, BC, Canada


Stable isotopes as an exploration tool : tracking cryptic alteration surrounding the Iscaycruz Zn (Pb-Cu-Ag) skarn-CRD deposit, central Peru
Sam Frank Cantor (2020)
MSc thesis, MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC

Mapping the Carbonate Alteration Footprint of the Cortez Hills Carlin-type Gold Deposit, Nevada, Using Carbon-Oxygen stable Isotopes and Geochemistry as a Vectoring Tool
Christopher Stephen Herron (2018)
MSc thesis, MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC

Establishing the Stable Isotope and Geochemical Footprints Associated with Carbonate-hosted Zn-Pb Deposits of the Kootenay Arc
Natalie Louise Cook (2016)
MSc thesis, MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC

The Stable Isotope Footprint Of Carbonate Alteration At The Red Lake Gold Mines, Ontario
Gruffudd Roberts (2014)
BSc thesis, MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC

Petrophysical And Physicochemical Controlling Parameters On Stable Isotope Depletion Patterns In Carbonate Rocks From Auriferous Hydrothermal Fluid Infiltration At The Long Canyon Sediment-Hosted Gold Deposit: Ne Nevada
William Adamas Lepore (2013)
MSc thesis, MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC

Tracing Hydrothermal Fluid Flow In The Rock Record: Geochemical And Isotopic Constraints On Fluid Flow In Carlin-type Gold Systems
Jeremy Reid Vaughan (2013)
PhD thesis, MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC

Distal Alteration in the Carbonate-hosted Replacement and Skarn Systems at Yauricocha, Central Peru
Julia Hurado Carrasco (2006)
MSc thesis, MDRU-Mineral Deposit Research Unit, UBC


updated 2020Oct29ch

Project sponsors