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breccias: combining ore deposit, volcanology and geophysical


Alison Rust (University of Bristol)
Richard Herrington (Natural History Museum)
Ben Williamson (University of Exeter)

There is abundant evidence from exploration and mining of porphyry ore deposits
that large (>100s of meters) pipes, dikes and irregular bodies of breccia form at
kilometers depth, spatially and temporally associated with hydrous arc magmatic
systems. This project will bring together the fields of economic geology, volcanology
and geophysics, both to physically understand how the barren and mineralized
breccias form, as well as to improve our interpretations of volcanic unrest signals
recorded today.
The classic paper on Ore-related breccias in volcanoplutonic arcs by Sillitoe
(1985) compiles information on the size and geometry of breccia bodies, and
lithologies, shape, size and vertical displacements of the constituent fragments. The
properties of the sub-surface breccia bodies vary considerably (e.g. no vertical
displacement of fragments to >1km displacement) and so there must be multiple
mechanisms for their formation. The project will concentrate on breccias associated
with sub-volcanic magmatic and hydrothermal processes that form by either release
of hydrothermal fluids from magmas or from fragmentation and eruption of
magmas from reservoirs.
The physical modelling will consider evolving stresses in intrusions and
surrounding rocks as volatile-saturated magmas are emplaced and crystallize,
exsolving further volatiles, as well as stresses in rocks at depth induced by eruptions
and dome/sector collapse (e.g. Montserrat; Druitt et al., 2002). All models, and
hypotheses derived from them, will be constrained and tested by evidence from
A second strand of research will assess the expected monitoring signals
(seismicity, ground deformation, gas emissions) that would be associated with the
formation of breccias like those that have been uncovered by economic geologists.
The flip side will be to review unrest signals from modern eruptive and non-
eruptive crises at volcanoes (e.g. Werner et al., 2011) and consider whether any
might be related to processes equivalent to the deep brecciation events in the
geological record.
The interests and aptitudes of the student will influence the relative
emphasis of topics and tools involved. The student will visit field sites to see
examples of breccias associated with mines in Chile, and in the Eocene Recsk
porphyry-epithermal system in Hungary where breccias are common and some are
clearly linked to the underlying buried porphyry copper deposit. There is also
considerable scope to collaborate with another GW4+ DTP student on a
complimentary project with a more petrological focus: Development of exploration
tools for granite-breccia-hosted mineral deposits. The latter studentship, based at
the University of Exeter, began October 2016.

Examples of breccia from a collection at the University of Bristol from a porphyry
copper deposit in Chile. A) magmatic clasts (slightly rounded and rotated) in a
hydrothermal matrix of molybdenite, pyrite, chalcopyrite (void spaces later filled by
hypogene alunite); B) sub-rounded magmatic clasts and country rock (siltstone) with
a magmatic matrix. Courtesy of Ed Bunker.

R. H. Sillitoe, Ore-related breccias in volcanoplutonic arcs. Economic Geology. 80,
1467-1514 (1985).

T. H. Druitt, S. R. Young, B. Baptie, B., C. Bonadonna, E. S. Calder, A. Clarke, A., ... & G.
Ryan Episodes of cyclic Vulcanian explosive activity with fountain collapse at
Soufrire Hills Volcano, Montserrat. Geological Society Memoir, 21, 281-306 (2002).

C. A. Werner, M. P. Doukas, & P. J. Kelly, Gas emissions from failed and actual
eruptions from Cook Inlet Volcanoes, Alaska, 19892006. Bulletin of Volcanology,
73, 155-173 (2011).