Controls on the heterogeneous distribution of mineral deposits through time
David I. Groves, Richard M. Vielreicher, Richard J. Goldfarb, Kent C. Condie, 2005. "Controls on the heterogeneous distribution of mineral deposits through time", Mineral Deposits and Earth Evolution, I. McDonald, A. J. Boyce, I. B. Butler, R. J. Herrington, D. A. Polya
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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.
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Mineral Deposits and Earth Evolution
Mineral deposits are not only primary sources of wealth generation, but also act as windows through which to view the evolution and interrelationships of the Earth system.
Deposits formed throughout the last 3.8 billion years of the Earth’s history preserve key evidence with which to test fundamental questions about the evolution of the Earth. These include: the nature of early magmatic and tectonic processes, supercontinent reconstructions, the state of the atmosphere and hydrosphere with time, and the emergence and development of life. The interlinking processes that form mineral deposits have always sat at the heart of the Earth system and the potential for using deposits as tools to understand that evolving system over geological time is increasingly recognized. This volume contains research aimed both at understanding the origins of mineral deposits and at using mineral deposits as tools to explore different long-term Earth processes.