Molar element ratio analysis of element concentrations consists of four basic tools that provide substantial insight into the lithogeochemistry (and mineralogy) of rocks under examination. These tools consist of: (1) conserved element ratio analysis; (2) Pearce element ratio analysis; (3) general element ratio analysis; and (4) lithogeochemical mineral mode analysis. Conserved element ratio analysis is useful in creating a chemostratigraphic model for the host rocks to mineral deposits, whereas Pearce element ratio analysis and general element ratio analysis are primarily used to identify mineralogical and metasomatic controls on rock compositions and to investigate and quantify the extent of the material transfers that formed the host rocks and mineralization. Lithogeochemical mineral mode analysis converts element concentrations into mineral concentrations using a matrix-based change-of-basis operation, allowing lithogeochemical data to be interpreted in terms of mineral modes. It can be used to provide proper names to rocks, an important activity for an exploration geologist because of the implications that rock names have on genetic processes and mineral deposit models.
This paper provides a review of the theoretical foundations of each of these four tools and then illustrates how these techniques have been used in a variety of exploration applications to assist in the search for, evaluation and planning of, and the mining of mineral deposits. Examples include the evaluation of total digestion lithogeochemical datasets from mineral deposits hosted by igneous and sedimentary rocks and formed by hydrothermal and igneous processes. In addition, this paper illustrates a more recent geometallurgical application of these methods, whereby the mineral proportions determined by lithogeochemical mineral mode analysis are used to predict rock properties and obtain the ore body knowledge critical for resource evaluation, mine planning, mining and mine remediation.