Controls on the heterogeneous distribution of mineral deposits through time

David I. Groves*, Richard M. Vielreicher, Richard J. Goldfarb, Kent C. Condie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


Mineral deposits exhibit heterogeneous distributions, with each major deposit type showing distinctive, commonly unique, temporal patterns. These reflect a complex interplay between formational and preservational forces that, in turn, largely reflect changes in tectonic processes and environmental conditions in an evolving Earth. The major drivers were the supercontinent cycle and evolution from plume-dominated to modern-style plate tectonics in a cooling Earth. Consequent decrease in the growth rate of continental crust, and change from thick, buoyant sub-continental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) in the Precambrian to thinner, negatively buoyant SCLM in the Phanerozoic, led to progressive decoupling of formational and preservational processes through time. This affected the temporal patterns of deposit types including orogenic gold, porphyry and epithermal deposits, volcanic hosted massive sulphide (VHMS), palaeoplacer Au, iron oxide, copper gold (IOCG), platinum group elements (PGE), diamond and probably massive sulphide SEDEX deposits. Sedimentary mineral deposits mined for redox-sensitive metals show highly anomalous temporal patterns in which specific deposit types are restricted to particular times in Earth history. In particular, palaeoplacer uranium, banded iron formation (BIF) and BIF-associated manganese carbonates that formed in the early Precambrian do not reappear in younger basins. The most obvious driver is progressive oxidation of the atmosphere, with consequent long-term changes in the hydrosphere and biosphere, the latter influencing the temporal distribution and peak development of deposits such as Mississippi Valley types (MVT), hosted in biogenic sedimentary rocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-101
Number of pages31
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Controls on the heterogeneous distribution of mineral deposits through time'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this