News Archive 2015


Fireworks for a Happier, More Prosperous Year 2016 (31 December 2015)

Let’s Commemorate 100 Years of ‘Continental Drift’ – Misunderstood, Disdained, Rediscovered (24 November 2015)

Mining, Society and Environment: “Natural Capital” a Novel Term in the Sustainable Development Discussion (21 October 2015)

Coal Miners Note: Good News for Tropical Islands - No Danger of Drowning! (24 September 2015)

Hazard and Risk – Terms that are Often Confused (26 August 2015)

Exploration Practice versus Science and Theory - Sig Muessig’s Canon for Ore Finders (22 July 2015)

Kiruna-Type Iron Oxide-Apatite (IOA) Deposits – an Innovative Genetic Model (24 June 2015)

Mine Closure Professionals, Take Note: Drawing Profits from Exhausted Open Pits – a Novel Approach (3 June 2015)

After the April 25, 2015 Earthquake in Nepal, more than ever, our Help is Needed! (1 May 2015)

Is Buried Anorthosite Genetically Related to the Green Garnet Gemstones in Southern Kenya? (17 April 2015)

The Anthropocene – a Voice of Reason (24 March 2015)

Exploring for Porphyry Copper Deposits (18 February 2015)

Structural Core Logging Best Practice (06 January 2015)


Fireworks for a Happier, More Prosperous Year 2016 (31 December 2015)

Isn’t it strange that people across the world like to ignite noisy firecrackers, rockets, sparks and varicoloured flares at the turn of the year? What would be geological or miners’ associations related to fireworks? How about volcanic lava fountains, or a big blast in an opencut? Or as happened to me this summer, firing a small underground production blast in a friend’s gemstone mine?

I certainly extend my best wishes to all of you, whichever way you started the New Year!

Yet I wanted to remind you, that the whole mining sector, not only embattled coal, is on the path to a fundamental transition. Read the carefully worded statements by International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) CEO Tom Butler expressed in a letter to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Christiana Figueres, offering support on behalf of the group’s 23 member companies. In this letter, Butler said climate change was an undeniable and critical global challenge, and its causes must be addressed by all parts of society, including the mining sector.

“We support a price on carbon, and other market mechanisms that drive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and incentivise innovation,” the letter said. “We recognise the need to reduce emissions from the use of coal, and support collaborative approaches to accelerate the use of low-emission coal technologies as part of a measured transition to a lower-emissions energy mix.”

“That transition should recognise the importance of coal in the global economy, and particularly in the developing world.”

Butler continued that the ICMM supported a greater use of renewable energy and other cost-effective low-emission technologies, including the mining sector. “We will help our host communities, and equip our operations, to adapt to the physical impact of climate change,” the letter said. “We will continue to ensure that climate change is a part of our planning process.” “We will engage with our peers, governments and society to share solutions and develop effective climate change policy.”

The letter was endorsed by the CEOs of the member companies: Glencore, South32, BHP Billiton, Newmont Mining, Teck Resources, Barrick Gold, Anglo American, Hydro, MMG, JX Nippon Mining & Metals, Rio Tinto, Anglo Gold Ashanti, Freeport McRoan, Goldcorp, Lonmin, Codelco, Areva, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo Metal Mining, African Rainbow Minerals, Polyus Gold, Gold Fields, and Antofagasta.

These engagements will impact on every part of mining, from jobs to technology and share values. But as always with changes, new opportunities will arise. Take and embrace them!

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Let’s Commemorate 100 Years of ‘Continental Drift’ – Misunderstood, Disdained, Rediscovered (24 November 2015)

Would you agree that the Theory of Plate Tectonics is the centre piece of understanding Earth processes and geology? – Most of us would answer that question affirmatively, considering how plate tectonics led to great progress in many fields of the earth sciences, including economic geology, exploration and metallogeny.

Many scientists contributed to the early foundations of plate tectonics. The first to see clearly, however, that continents and oceans are not fixed in geological time but converge and break up and move about was Alfred Wegener (1880-1830), a polar scientist, meteorologist and geophysicist. Let us commemorate that in the year 1915, he published his first paper on continental drift and some observations that supported this hypothesis. In spite of hot opposition and disdain by most of his peers, he wrote a wholly revised 2ndedition in 1920 that was translated into English (1924).

Unfortunately, his ideas were too novel for his time and continental drift was buried until after the 2nd World War, when new technologies and systematic surveying of the oceans forced the acceptance of Wegener’s concepts. Just as one example: Recognizing that continents are mainly made up of light rocks such as gneiss, he was the first to suggest for the deep oceans, in contrast, a basaltic composition (based on gravity data), noting his regrets that sampling was technically not feasible.

Alfred Wegener died in the midlle oft Greenland’s ice shield in November 1930. There remained few to defend his views and most of us were probably taught that continental drift has no place in modern plate tectonic theory. Admittedly, in the excellent book Global Tectonics (Kearey et al. 2009) continental drift is given a whole chapter that introduces Wegener’s pre-Plate Tectonics arguments for drift, e.g. fitting continental outlines, continuous orogens and other features across oceans such as metallogenetic provinces. The authors conclude this chapter with the paleomagnetic methods and data that finally proved movement of the continents. Overall, continental drift is treated as history.

But halt! Continental drift is in large parts still valid. Read the paper by Yaoling Niu (2014) who writes that

“the passive migration of the overriding continental plate/lithosphere in response to trench retreat/suction is the very mechanism of continental drift, whose ultimate driving force is seafloor subduction”

By the way, are you aware that the precise plate tectonic setting of one of the largest ore domains on the Earth – the East Asian W-Sn-F-U-Nb-Ta-REE and base metal-Mo province – is fundamentally disputed? Its position on the the upper, continental plate above the westward subducting Pacific oceanic plate is agreed. The 1000 km width of the Yanshanian (Jurassic) fertile granite belt, however, defies interpretations such as a simple continental volcanic arc or a Basin-and-Range style province setting.

This conundrum may be solved by the ‘basal hydration weakening’ hypothesis of Yaoling Niu (2014): He proposes that Mesozoic granitoids in eastern China resulted from crustal melting caused by under-plating of mantle-derived basaltic melts that provided heat.The basaltic melts were most likely derived from transition-zone slab dehydration induced mantle melting (lithospheric and asthenospheric); its cause would be a stagnant slab trapped in the transition zone by rapid trench retreat and the consequent eastward drift of the Chinese continent.

Will you join me in three cheers for Wegener?


Kearey, P., Klepeis, K.A. & Vine, F. (2009) Global tectonics, 3rd edn, 496 pp. Wiley-Blackwell.

Wegener, A. (1915) Die Entstehung der Kontinente und Ozeane (in German). F. Vieweg, Braunschweig. Wholly revised 2nded. 1920.

Wegener, A. (transl. J.G.A. Skerl) (1924) Origin of continents and oceans. Methuen, London.

Yaoling Niu (2014) Geological understanding of plate tectonics: Basic concepts, illustrations, examples and new perspectives. Global Tectonics and Metallogeny 10/1, 23–46. DOI: 10.1127/gtm/2014/0009 (free download)

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Mining, Society and Environment: “Natural Capital” a Novel Term in the Sustainable Development Discussion (21 October 2015)

A few days ago I attended a presentation on “Aquatic environmental stories” by a Professor of Environmental History. For illuminating examples, the speaker chose water way and hydroelectric power plant building (in the former Soviet Union), and flood control along the Danube (Austria). A diagram of decreasing caviar production served to underline the damages in Russia. True, fish (and caviar for export) is a natural good. And flood control measures? Detrimental, too. -- Woe betide the mine that is faced with this kind of determined one-sided emotional arguments and hostility! And poor pseudo-rationally indoctrinated students.

But if industrial projects reduce the production of natural goods, should the losses not be weighed against the gains? Yes, of course, but how can this be done?

This is where the natural capital comes in. Application of the concept allows to calculate the economic value of an ecosystem and its loss for a limited time or foreever. This kind of calculations may soon be required standard in Environmental Impact Assessments.

If your work in the exploration and mining industry encompasses the environment, the community and society at large, you might wish to take a note that discussions are shifting to safe-guard not specific rare species or wetlands but the “Natural Capital”. Here is a brief definition:

  • “Natural Capital refers to the living and nonliving components of ecosystems—other than people and what they manufacture— that contribute to the generation of goods and services of value for people” (Guerry et al. 2015).
  • An ecosystem is a “community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (air, water and mineral soil)”, as defined in Wikipedia.
  • “Ecosystem services” are the conditions and processes of ecosystems that generate or help generate benefits for people (e.g. food, timber, flood and erosion control, areas for recreation and aesthetics, and clean water).
  • Recently, in the 100th Anniversary Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), a Special Feature “Nature as Capital” (download free) comprises 12 papers that illuminate various aspects such as agriculture, biodiversity, coastal management, disaster risk reduction, poverty and public health. Mining is not specially treated.

    Reference to the introductory paper

    Guerry, A.D., Polasky, St., Lubchenco, J. et al. (2015) Natural capital and ecosystem services informing decisions: From promise to practice. PNAS 112, 24, 7348–7355.
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    Coal Miners Note: Good News for Tropical Islands - No Danger of Drowning! (24 September 2015)

    The forthcoming UN climate conference causes a crescendo of reports on climate change impacts and dire warnings if a global CO2 reduction treaty should not be concluded. Forces are assembling that aim to end the extraction and burning of coal. One example of these attempts is a recent insights article in Science (Sept. 18) “King Coal and the Queen of Subsidies” that argues that the subsidies and social costs of coal surpass all other energy sources.

    Is it forgotten that coal as abundant and cheap energy was the fundamental precondition for the increasing prosperity of industrial nations (Freese 2003) and still is for emerging economies such as China and India? Should all efforts towards “clean coal” such as carbon-capture and storage systems (CCS) come to nothing?

    It is not for a geologist to argue about social and fiscal matters. But there is a geological issue that is usually raised at this kind of conferences – the drowning of Pacific islanders as the sea level rises. Who would not commiserate with these people?

    Kench et al. (2015) questioned this widely accepted hypothesis by investigating Funafuti Atoll, in the tropical Pacific Ocean, that has experienced some of the highest rates of sea-level rise (∼5.1 ± 0.7 mm/yr), totaling ∼0.30 ± 0.04 m over the past 60 yr (let me note here that the rise and fall of the sea is determined by numerous local factors apart from global ones).

    The authors analyzed six time slices of shoreline position over the past 118 years at 29 islands of Funafuti Atoll to determine their physical response to recent sea-level rise. They were surprised to find out that despite the magnitude of this rise, no islands have been lost, the majority have enlarged, and that there has been a 7.3% increase in net island area over the past century (A.D. 1897–2013).

    Kench et al. (2015) conclude that reef islands in Funafuti continually adjust their size, shape, and position in response to variations in boundary conditions, including storms, sediment supply, as well as sea level. The suggest a positive prognosis for the habitability of Pacific atolls.

    How is growth of islands possible, in spite of rising sea-levels? Reef islands are unique landforms composed entirely of sediment produced on the surrounding coral reefs. A study in the tropical island paradise of the Maldives (Indian Ocean) quantified the major sediment-generating habitats, the abundance of sediment producers in these habitats, and the rates and size fractions of sediment generated by different taxa (Perry et al. 2015). On Vakaru island, parrotfish (85%) processing corals and Halimeda (macroalgae, 10%) were identified as the main sediment producers. Reef growth is the critical factor that provides the sand and gravel supply for maintaining the island.

    Coal miners, let us rejoice that of all misery attributed to coal, at least the threats on homes and lifes of atoll reef islanders can be eliminated from the list.


    Freese, B. (2003) Coal, a human history. 336 pp. Heinemann, London.

    Kench, P.S., Thompson, D., Ford, M.R., Ogawa, H. & McLean, R.F. (2015) Coral islands defy sea-level rise over the past century: Records from a central Pacific atoll. Geology 43, 515-518.

    Perry, C.T., Kench, P.S., O'Leary, M.J., Morgan, K.M. & Januchowski-Hartley, F. (2015) Linking reef ecology to island building: Parrotfish identified as major producers of island-building sediment in the Maldives. Geology 43, 503-506. Open Access

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    Hazard and Risk – Terms that are Often Confused (26 August 2015)

    Commonly, media and the public use these terms interchangeably. This confuses many important matters. I admit, however, that even my Chambers Dictionary that I consider as the English language authority, presents the terms as exchangable. We as mining professionals know better and should try to rectify any misuse.

    The linguistic distinction may have originated in the world of shipping, trading and finance. Today, hazard is a dormant danger or an impending event or potential accident that poses a threat to life, health, property, economic activity or to the environment. A hazard may be known or unknown. Hazard is the danger, risk the impact or consequence if the hazard is realized. An important attribute of hazard is its probability because risk is a function of the probability or likelyhood of an event causing damage or loss. For geological hazards (e.g. landslides, extreme floods or destructive earthquakes), the natural frequency such as 3 times per 100 years is often used to describe the probability. Damage by an impending event is estimated by investigating the vulnerability of elements at risk and the consequent loss. In geotechnics, of which mining is a part, risk is often defined by the simplified equation:

    R PVA

    R is risk; P is hazard expressed as probability of occurrence within a reference period (e.g. 100 years, or the design period of a building such as a tailings dam); V is the physical vulnerability of a particular element at risk (from 0 to 1) for a specific type of hazard; A is the amount or cost of the elements at risk (e.g. number of buildings, cost of buildings, number of people affected, etc.).

    Typically, modern hazard and risk analysis and estimation is using advanced mathematical methods. Let us not be too deferential, however; we still remember the loss we all suffered after 2008-9, when speculative derivatives (based on the Black-Scholes Equation) blew up. Maths alone without intelligent control can be deceiving.

    Risk perception by the public is an entirely different non-technical field. It is strongly recommended, however, to investigate social issues in time before a public storm breaks loose.

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    Exploration Practice versus Science and Theory - Sig Muessig’s Canon for Ore Finders (22 July 2015)

    Sig Muessig was a remarkably successful explorationist. In a 1998 paper, he published a summary of his views on “ore finding” that was reprinted by SEG in 2014. Look at the titles of his major rules below. In the paper, they all are further explained and I advise you strongly to acquire the full text for a proper understanding. You can download the paper for free:

    The ore finders – 18 exploration canons

    I do like, as an example, his remarks explaining canon no. 1 “Exploration is not a science”:

    “The aims of exploration are fundamentally at odds with those of science. Science seeks understanding, whereas exploration seeks discovery, by whatever means, with or without understanding. ... If I had to pick a basic flaw in the philosophical approach of many organizations to exploration, it would be here. Many geologists tend to ignore or disbelieve data and observations simply because they cannot explain them—no scientific cause can be established. As a result, many either walk away or they over-geologize and then walk away. Consider a classic case: the Wegener hypothesis of continental drift was derided primarily because no understandable cause could be developed, so plate tectonics lay “undiscovered” for many years.”

    If you wish to delve deeper, here is the full list:

    Exploration is not a science - Go with the facts, forget the theory - Try for the definitive test. -- The odds are best in the shadow of the head frame. -- Save the agonizing for mineralized trends. -- Look for ore, not mineralization. - To find an orebody, you have to drill ore holes. -- There needs to be room for the ore -- Improve it or drop it -- Do not chase spurious anomalies. -- Do not be preoccupied with explaining anomalies. -- Do not be preoccupied with path finders. -- Do not be preoccupied with stereo typed concepts -- Do not be technology driven -- Acquire first, study later -- Disregard competitor’s previous actions -- Go for the jugular. -- It’s the drill hole, stupid!

    With my background in science, I might object to several of the canons (e.g. Sig’s distrust of pathfinders). But Sig has found giant ore bodies! His arguments need to be taken very seriously. And, I would add, many discussions in field camps or in board rooms might profit from throwing in one or the other of Sig’s canons!

    Muessig, S. (2014) The ore finders – 18 exploration canons. SEG Newsletter 97, 17-19 (Reprint from SEG Newsletter 1998).

    Kiruna-type iron oxide-apatite (IOA) deposits – an innovative genetic model (24 June 2015)

    Kiruna in northern Sweden is the largest iron ore producer in Europe. It is traditionally considered as the type-deposit of orthomagmatic iron ore formation related to felsic intrusions. Most scientists invoked formation of an immiscible iron oxide melt that segregated from the silicate liquid and crystallized to massive magnetite-apatite ore. Some observations seemed to favour a magmatic-extrusive ore formation or a magmatic-hydrothermal metasomatic origin similar to iron oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) deposits. Knipping et al. (2015), however, now submit convincingly that magmatic magnetite flotation is the best-fitting genetic model for Kiruna type iron ore deposits.

    Froth flotation, as you all know it from ore dressing plants, uses the different wetting characteristics of ore minerals and gangue. Conditions are set so that air bubbles rising upward through a cell containing comminuted ore as an aqueous slurry attach themselves to the ore particles. Gangue sinks to the bottom while the froth is skimmed from the surface and processed into concentrate.

    Recently, upward segregation of dense phases such as magnetite or sulphide liquid in silicate melt by flotation similar to the industrial process, as opposed to downward gravitational segregation, was recognized in natural systems and investigated in laboratories. Maria Edmonds (2015; free download!) describes the state of scientific understanding.

    Jaayke Knipping et al. (2015) investigated the Los Colorados iron oxide-apatite (IOA) deposit in the Cretaceous Chilean iron ore belt. Iron and oxygen isotope and geochemical data (Al + Mn/Ti + V) of magnetite clearly demonstrate a magmatic origin of cores surrounded by zones of magmatic-hydrothermal character. The authors’ interpretation differentiates several stages (1) magnetite microlites segregate from dioritic melt forming suspended clouds; (2) H2O saturation induce fluid segregation; (3) rising bubbles attach themselves to magnetite crystals and form aggregates that ascend in the magma chamber; (4) concentrations of the “foam” may reach up to 37 vol% (65 wt%) magnetite; (5) the aqueous fluid component of the foam shifts the magnetite chemistry to high-T magmatic-hydrothermal characteristics; (6) the magnetite-rich foam may be trapped within the igneous system or, as at Los Colorados, intrude along faults that were active at the time. The deposit comprises ca. 350 Mt of ore (magnetite, with a gangue of actinolite, apatite, and clinopyroxene).

    Let me be clear – this paper is an important innovation, or a revolution?, in our understanding of orthomagmatic ore fomation. The authors point out that the results indicate genetic relations between IOA and IOCG deposits. Reverberations of this new model may reach other deposit types. Can you think of any that may be candidates for re-interpretation?

    Edmonds, M. (2015) Flotation of magmatic minerals. Geology 43, 655-656. Open Access

    Knipping, J.L., Bilenker, L.D., Simon, A.C. et al. (2015) Giant Kiruna-type deposits form by efficient flotation of magmatic magnetite suspensions. Geology 43, 591-594.

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    Mine Closure Experts, Take Note: Drawing Profits from Exhausted Open Pits – a Novel Approach (3 June 2015)

    Recently, Younger & Mayes (reference below) proposed to use pits for gradual infilling with autochthonous organic sediments (not organic waste), which can serve as a long-term sink for atmospheric CO2. On the bottom of suitable residual opencasts, wetlands would be established. In the presence of small pit lakes, part of the vegetation might be planned as floating mats. Moderate acid rock drainage would be favourable because sulfate inhibits anaerobic decay and methane formation. Contamination dissolved in mine run-off will be retained in the freshly formed peat. Obviously, completely filling a pit with peat will take a long time, but maintenance costs should be minimal and credits for sequestered carbon can be sold. Depending on climate and the local groundwater situation, a moderate extent of water management might be needed to maintain plant growth.

    In many ways, nature should profit from such sites, providing a habitat for numerous species. Likewise, local communities should enjoy their green beauty spot as an enriched landscape of constructed ecosystems and services.

    Leafing through the DMP & EPA (URL below) “Guidelines for preparing mine closure plans”, the last of four principle strategies may apply to peat production in pits: “4. Develop an alternative land use with beneficial uses other than the pre-mining land use” (page 31).

    DMP & EPA (2015) Guidelines for preparing mine closure plans. 100 pp, Department of Mines and Petroleum & Environmental Protection Authority, Government of Western Australia. URL

    Younger, P.L. & Mayes, W.M. (2015) The potential use of exhausted open pit mine voids as sinks for atmospheric CO2: Insights from natural reedbeds and mine water treatment wetlands. Mine Water Environment 34, 112-120.

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    After the April 25, 2015 Earthquake in Nepal, more than ever, our help is needed! (1 May 2015)

    Surely you have noticed on my home page that for many years, I support the NGO PHASE (Practical Help Achieving Self Empowerment) in improving the lives of inhabitants of remote Himalayan villages in Nepal. PHASE follows a holistic approach to development, from health care to teacher training and women’s empowerment.

    After the recent earthquake, many of the project villages and other communities around are heavily hit by the destruction and their loss of all means for existence. PHASE started to help immediately after the first shock. The size of the disaster is large and so are the funds now needed.

    Please help!

    Professional information on this earthquake is available on

    Nepal April 25, 2015; Magnitude 7.8 Earthquake (USGS Earthquake pages)

    Hand, E. & Priyanka, P. Pulla (2015) Nepal disaster presages a coming megaquake. Science 1 May 2015: 348 no. 6234 pp. 484-485. DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6234.484

    Bilham, R. (2015) Seismology: Raising Kathmandu. Nature Geoscience 8, 582–584. doi:10.1038/ngeo2498

    Article preview: “On 25 April 2015 northern Nepal shifted up to 7 m southward and Kathmandu was raised by 1 m. The causal earthquake failed to fully rupture the main fault beneath the Himalaya and hence a large earthquake appears to be inevitable in Nepal's future”

    This should be interesting for many, but unfortunately, the two papers are not free for download.

    For more information on PHASE, its engagement in earthquake relief and development, and online donations, visit
    Phase Donate Online

    Phase Worldwide (U.K.)

    Phase (Austria)

    Phase (Nepal)

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    Is Buried Anorthosite Genetically Related to the Green Garnet Gemstones in Southern Kenya? (17 April 2015)

    Recently, I was prompted to re-analyse work that I had done long ago in Kenya, geologically mapping the Mwatate Quadrangle and exploring the gemstone deposits of the area (Pohl et al. 1979).

    The green garnet gemstones are grossularites coloured by Fe, Cr, Mn, Ti and V. Host rocks are calcareous, pelitic and graphitic metasediments interbedded with paragneiss and metabasalts, metamorphosed at amphibolite facies conditions up to 7 kbar and 700 o C (Pohl et al. 1979), dated at 630–645 Ma (Hauzenberger et al. 2007). General dip is to the ENE but this veils polyphase folding and thrust sheets marked by small ultramafic bodies. Metamorphism and deformation occurred during the East African Orogeny that contributed to the assembly of supercontinent Gondwana. A 15 x 5 km lensoid body of charnockite protrudes from the metasediments (you can download the paper + map from my profile in ResearchGate) that is of Proterozoic age. The charnockite was most probably tectonically emplaced into the fold-and thrust belt of the metasediments but likely was basement to the passive margin system of the Mozambiquian Ocean, upon which the sediments formed at ca. 800-600 Ma (Fritz et al. 2013) during the breakup of supercontinent Rodinia.

    Green grossularite
    Green grossularite garnet (about 25 mm across), idiomorphic, cataclastic, kelyphitic reaction rim (5 mm) of bluish tanzanite (a zoisite), epidote, clinopyroxene, spinel, quartz and scapolite. Collected at Lualenyi Mine.

    Boudinage of more competent rock layers in less competent host rock is ubiquitous at Mwatate. The green gem garnets (tsavorites: Bridges & Walker 2014) ) are commonly enriched in boudin necks of calcsilicate boudins in graphite schist. These dilatational sites (pressure shadows) draw in the metamorphic dehydration fluids and favour coarse-grained crystallisation. This demonstrates a strong structural synmetamorphic and syndeformational control of garnet crystallisation. Additional control by upright folds and some faults is seen in most gemstone mines in the area (Figs. 5-10). Green grossularite deposits are bound to a certain graphitic lithostratigraphic unit.

    An aeromagnetic survey of the sheet was flown in 1977 (CIDA, Terra Surveys Ltd.); in reduced size, the map is included in my report (Fig. 12). A significant positive anomaly 9 x 2.5 km roughly coincides with the charnockite outcrop’s N-S axis but is not in accordance with shape and internal structure of the charnockite complex. The shape of the anomaly was thought to indicate considerable depth; application of the straight slope method (Milsom & Eriksen 2011) for estimating the depth of the source body produces a figure of 700 ± 200 m. At the time, we speculated that a buried mass of magnetite might be the source of the anomaly. The exposed charnockite only contains ~4 mode % of apatite, zircon and magnetite.

    Considering that charnockite is a member of the anorthosite, mangerite, charnockite and rapakivi granite (AMCG) magmatic suite and related ilmenite deposits (Charlier et al. 2015) and that Proterozoic anorthosite bodies that intruded at 900-700 Ma are exposed in the nearby Eastern Granulite region, Pare Mts., Tanzania (Fritz et al. 2013, Tenczer et al. 2011), a desktop study and possibly, renewed field work concerning this remarkable magnetic anomaly appears desirable. This could be a magnetite body with Ti-V-(P) tenors that enhance the feasibility of deep mining. After all, at Kiruna in Northern Sweden, simple magnetite is profitably exploited at more than 1000 m below the surface.

    Admittedly, a genetic tie-line to the green garnet gemstones is pure phantasy; but be so kind as to read my arguments: If the source body of the Mtonga magnetic anomaly is Ti-ore associated with a buried anorthosite intrusion, it is likely that a wide contact metamorphic halo and fluid expulsion were produced. Fluid passage through solidified anorthosite would be marked by the characteristic bleaching of the host anorthosite (Charlier et al. 2015). These fluids should have leached and transported the colouring metals into the cover sediments including the green garnet horizon.

    Following up these speculations might result in (1) finding a new large Ti orebody, and (2) building a novel mineral (process) system for green garnet exploration. Anybody interested?


    Bridges, B. & Walker, J. (2014) The discoverer of tsavorite – Campbell Bridges – and his Scorpion mine. The Journal of Gemmology 34(3), 230–241.

    Charlier, B., Namur, O., Bolle, O. et al. (2015) Fe-Ti-V-P ore deposits associated with Proterozoic massif-type anorthosites and related rocks. Earth-Science Reviews 141, 56–81.

    Frisch, W. & Pohl, W. (1986) Petrochemistry of some mafic and ultramafic rocks from the Mozambique Belt, SE Kenya. Mitt. oesterr. Geol. Ges. 78, 97–114.

    Fritz, H., Abdelsalam, M., Ali, K.A., et al. (2013) Orogen styles in the East African Orogen: A review of the Neoproterozoic to Cambrian tectonic evolution. J. African Earth Sciences 86, 65–106.

    Hauzenberger C.A., Sommer H., Fritz H., Bauernhofer A., Kroner A., Hoinkes G., Wallbrecher E. and Thöni M. (2007) SHRIMP U-Pb zircon and Sm-Nd garnet ages from the granulite-facies basement of SE Kenya: Evidence for Neoproterozoic polycyclic assembly of the Mozambique Belt. J.Geological Society London, 164, 189–201.

    Milsom, J.J. & Eriksen, A. (2011) Field geophysics. 4th edn. 304 pp. The Geological Field Techniques Series, Wiley.

    Pohl, W.L., Nauta, W.J. & Niedermayr, G. (1979) Geology of the Mwatate Quadrangle and the Vanadium Grossularite Deposits of the Area (with a Geological Map 1:50,000). Kenya Geol. Survey Report No. 101, 55 pp, 13 Figs., Nairobi.

    Tenczer, V., Hauzenberger, C.A., Fritz, H., Hoinkes, G., Muhongo, S. & Klötzli, U. (2011) The P–T–X(fluid) evolution of meta-anorthosites in the Eastern Granulites, Tanzania. J. Metamorphic Geol. 29, 537–560. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1314.2011.00929.x

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    The Anthropocene – a Voice of Reason (24 March 2015)

    Wherever you live, you must have learnt from the media that in geological terms, our time should forthwith be called the Anthropocene (not Holocene any more) because humans so strongly impact on the Earth. Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? Why not? – At least that was my reaction when I first heard about the proposal some 15 years ago. And you?

    Basically, all members of the geological community are professionally responsible for such a change and should be engaged. In his latest blog on Research News from the Earth Sciences , Steve Drury reports on recent developments in the (scientific) discussion. I strongly recommend to read his cool, dry and reasoned treatment.

    For a taste, read the sample paragraph below, which provides the gist of Steve’s analysis:

    “So the Anthropocene adds the future to the stratigraphic column, which seems more than slightly odd. As Richard Monastersky notes, it is in fact a political entity: part of some kind of agenda or manifesto; a sort of environmental agitprop from the ‘geos’. As if there were not dozens of rational reasons to change human impacts to haul society back from catastrophe, which many people outside the scientific community have good reason to see as hot air on which there is never any concrete action by ‘the great and the good’. Monastersky also notes that the present Anthropocene record in naturally deposited geological materials accounts for less than a millimetre at the top of ocean-floor sediments. How long might the proposed Epoch last? If action to halt anthropogenic environmental change does eventually work, the Anthropocene will be very short in historic terms let alone those which form the currency of geology. If it doesn’t, there will be nobody around able to document, let alone understand, the epochal events recorded in rocks. At its worst, for some alien, visiting planetary scientists, far in the future, an Anthropocene Epoch will almost certainly be far shorter than the 10 4 to 10 5 years represented by the hugely more important Palaeozoic-Mesozoic and Mesozoic-Cenozoic boundary sequences; but with no Wikipedia entry.”

    If you wish to brush up your knowledge of the geological time-scale, visit the International Commission on Stratigraphy website where you can download for free the latest version (2015-1) of the International Stratigraphic Chart & Time-Scale, as yet without the Anthropocene.

    Steve Drury: The Anthropocene-what-or-who-is-it-for

    International Stratigraphic Chart & Time-Scale

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    Exploring for Porphyry Copper Deposits (18 February 2015)

    Admittedly, global resource figures seem not to imply a scarcity of copper, and some might conclude, that there is little need for exploration:

    In 2014, world mine production of copper contained in concentrate was 18.7 Mt, with the major share provided by Chile, China, Peru, USA, DR Congo and Australia. Global mining reserves in the ground amount to 700 Mt of the metal and continue to grow (USGS 2015). Excluding reserves, large formally declared copper resources are available (Mudd et al. 2013) and undiscovered recoverable copper is substantial (Kesler & Wilkinson 2008). Land-based resources comprise mainly porphyry copper (86%, USGS 2015). Undiscovered resources hold an estimated 3500 Mt of Cu. So is there plenty of copper?

    The authors’ abstract may serve as an overview of the contents covered:

    “Whole-rock lithogeochemical analyses combined with short-wave infrared (SWIR) spectroscopy provide a rapid and cost-effective method for prospecting for porphyry-type hydrothermal systems. Lithogeochemistry detects trace metals to average crustal abundance levels and allows vectoring via gradients of chalcophile and lithophile elements transported by magmatic-hydrothermal ore and external circulating fluids that are dispersed and trapped in altered rocks. Of particular use are alkalis in sericite and metals such as Mo, W, Se, Te, Bi, As, and Sb, which form stable oxides that remain in weathered rocks and soils. SWIR mapping of shifts in the 2,200-nm Al-OH absorption feature in sericite define paleofluid pH gradients useful for vectoring toward the center of the buoyant metal-bearing magmatic-hydrothermal plume”.

    I particularly like their updated (compared with the Lowell-Guilbert-1970 model) version of the alteration zoning that characterizes porphyry copper deposits, in a cross section that is rich in detail. In similar sections, the distribution of trace elements along the hypogene plume is shown, from below the main ore level through highest grade and mineralization top, to the advanced argillic alteration zone with polymetallic veins.

    The paper offers new geochemical approaches for the exploration geologist. Another hope for finding new clusters of porphyry copper deposits comes from global dynamics:

    Known porphyry copper provinces will continue to attract exploration crews. They crowd in continental volcanic arc setttings such as the Andes and are leaders in present copper mining. Deposits in continent-arc or continent-continent collision zones and post-subduction settings are less common. Yet, the lately discovered 400 km long Miocene (17-14 Ma) Gandese porphyry copper-molybdenum belt in Tibet intruded the Himalayas that were formed by the Indian-Asian collision. The mineralised porphyry intrusions in Tibet formed long after subduction related (120-70 Ma) and syn-collisional (65-38 Ma) magmatic activity in the region. Zengqian Hou et al. (2013) suggest that the post-collisional fertile potassic magmas were derived from a juvenile, thickened lower mafic crust, not from subcontinental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) nor from old lower crust. These days, in an open access paper “hot off the press” Zengqian Hou et al. (2015) discuss this subject in more detail.

    Who is the next team to make a similar discovery?

    Halley, S., Dilles, J.H. & Tosdal, R.M. (2015) Footprints: Hydrothermal alteration and geochemical dispersion around porphyry copper deposits. SEG Newsletter 100, 1, 12-17.

    Zengqian Hou, Zhiming Yang, Yongjun Lu, Anthony Kemp, Yuanchuan Zheng, Qiuyun Li, Juxing Tang, Zhusen Yang & Lianfeng Duan (2015) A genetic linkage between subduction- and collision-related porphyry Cu deposits in continental collision zones. Geology published 5 February 2015, 10.1130/G36362.1 Open Access

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    Structural Core Logging Best Practice (06 January 2015)

    If you wish to update your core logging skills, consult the paper by Sian Bright and co-authors. It is extremely useful in that it provides information on up-to-date technologies including critical comparison of hard- and software. The writing is clear and lucid. Figures and photographs are excellent.

    Sections of the paper cover downhole survey tools, core orientation including methods such as marking and equipment, core preparation for logging, structural data collection, with a short but useful introduction to structural geology applied to modelling, e.g. what to measure and measurement techniques. The first author’s training as a structural geologist is revealed by advice such as the advantage of creating interpretive illustrations of important features, summarized into preliminary structural schemes while working on the core, and the early transformation of data into dip/dip directions.

    Manual or software assisted plotting of data on stereonets is suggested and examples of practical application are provided. Advantages and disadvantages of two commonly used software packages(GEOrient©, Dips) are discussed. Visualization possibilities of the core data and output are succinctly presented; methods include 3D Leapfrog® and Micromine®, and 2D GIS and Google Earth.

    Logging personell in the core shed, but also exploration and mine managers, regulating authorities and academic teachers will read this paper to their advantage.

    Bright, S., Conner, G., Turner, A. & Vearncombe, J. (2014) Drill core, structure and digital technologies. Applied Earth Science 123, 47-68.

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