The formation of most mineral deposits is closely linked to a geodynamic context—for example, the association of porphyry Cu-Au-Mo deposits with subduction and development of volcanic arcs. This paper proposes a new approach to the global screening of volcanic arcs and their duration, as a predictive method for a mineral systems-based approach (e.g., discovery of potential porphyry occurrences). The method utilizes geospatial and temporal analytics run on a combination of large global data sets and a global plate tectonic model (covering the time period 600 Ma to present) containing plate boundaries. The method involves (1) calculating present-day arc volcano-to-trench distances and obtaining average volcanic-arc widths in both continental and intraoceanic settings, (2) applying these values to the paleotrenches contained in the plate tectonic model on 53 time intervals spread throughout the Phanerozoic, (3) unreconstructing the results back to present day, and (4) summing up all magmatic arc occurrences using their cumulative durations.
This results in a spatiotemporal model of the total cumulative duration of magmatic arc activity at the global scale, back to 600 Ma, that is updatable and can serve as a proxy to predict porphyry deposit likelihood. The model output is tested against a porphyry copper occurrence data set to validate the approach as a predictive proxy for arc-related porphyry deposits.
The alignment of the model results with data control is high for most geologic time periods throughout the Phanerozoic—up to 90% in the case of buffered (1σ) magmatic arcs and up to 100% in the case of buffered magmatic arcs with an additional search distance (2σ). Recent advances in plate tectonic model quality and detail now offer a higher level of precision and confidence than ever before and enable tools for the prediction and screening of porphyry deposit locations, as well as opening the potential to screen for other geodynamic context-dependent commodities (e.g., orogenic gold, volcanogenic massive sulfide, or Ni and platinum group element-sulfide deposits), particularly in the search for poorly exposed or subsurface orebodies.