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ECONOMIC GEOLOGY

Minerals form chief source of all the industrial metals and non-metals. The commonly used
metals like Al, Cu, Fe, Pb, Zn etc are all manufactured using minerals as raw materials. Similarly
non-metals like glass and refractories are also made from minerals. Minerals are also source of
energy. Coal, petroleum and radio-active minerals have been used to produce energy. In fact, the
role played by the minerals in the overall processes of any country can hardly be overemphasized.

Ore mineral
Ore is an aggregate of minerals from which one or more minerals can be extracted
profitably. In its strictest sense, ore refers to only metals or metal-bearing minerals. Therefore,
those which contain an economically exploitable quantity of some metal are described as Ore
minerals. Clays are rich in aluminium but since the metal cannot be extracted from ordinary clays at
an economical cost, these are not included among the ores of aluminium. Bauxite, an oxide of
aluminium, however, is an ore of aluminium, since the metal can be recovered by electrolytic
refining at economic cost. Natural deposits of such ore minerals are termed Ore deposits. Ore
deposit is a sum of ore mineral and gangue mineral. Ore deposit may of any shape and form but its
size is of real importance. A small patch or layer of bauxite, say one meter thick and a kilometre
long will not make an ore deposit. The deposit has to be of considerable size and volume, often in
terms of million tonnes to quantify as an ore deposit. Hence, the definition of an ore deposit is also
size dependent.

Gangue mineral
It is the part of an ore deposit from which a metal or metals are not extracted. The term also
loosely used for the waste material from the process of separation and concentration of ores.
Common gangue minerals include quartz, calcite, fluorite, siderite, pyrite etc. It may be noted that
the gangue mineral of one orebody may be the ore mineral of another. For eg: pyrite may be
separated when it occurs with lead and zinc and referred to as gangue while in other places pyrite is
worked profitably. Some non-metallic gangue minerals are valuable in their own right, eg: barites,
fluorite. For purpose of recognition as an ore, a deposit must contain at least a certain percentage of
metal in it and the lowest admissible limit of metallic content of an ore is known as its Tenor.

Tenor
To consider any mineral as an ore mineral, it should have some percentage of metal content
in a mineral to be treated as an ore mineral is called as the tenor. The tenor of the ore depends on
the price of the metal obtained from it. For costly metals the tenor is very low such as for gold it is
0.01% whereas in case of cheap metals like iron, the tenor is much higher, i.e., 50% or more.

Origin of Ore deposits:


Mineral deposits may occur as large bodies of variety shapes in some other rock – the
country rock – or they may form thin or thick veins, lodes or granules dispersed in the enclosing
rocks. On the basis of their formation (relative to the rock) the ore deposits are grouped either
syngenetic or as epigenetic.
Classification of mineral deposits

Processes Deposits Examples


(i) Early magmatic
a. Disseminated crystallization Diamond pipes
b. Segregation Chromite deposits
c. Injection
Magmatic (ii) Late magmatic
1
concentration a. Residual liquid segregation
b. Residual liquid injection Magnetite, pegmatites,
c. Immiscible liquid sulfides
segregation
d. Immiscible liquid injection
(i) Cavity filling (open space deposits)
a. Fissure vein
b. Shear zone deposits
c. Stock works
d. Ladder veins Copper, lead, zinc
e. Saddle-reefs deposits
Hydrothermal f. Tension-crack fillings
2 g. Solution-cavity fillings
processes
h. Pore-space fillings
i. Vesicular fillings
(ii) Replacement
a. Massive
Iron, gold, copper
b. Lode fissure
c. Disseminated
Submarine exhalative Mn nodules, sulphur,
3 Submarine volcanic deposits
volcanism pumice
Iron ore, manganese,
4 Sedimentation Sedimentary ore deposits
phosphate
Iron ores, manganese,
Residual and Residual deposits
bauxite etc,
5 mechanical
Placers: a) Stream, b) Beach, c) Eluvial
concentrations Gold, copper
and d) Eolian
Evaporates Salt deposits, gypsum,
a. Marine potash, sodium
6 Evaporation
b. Lake carbonate, borates,
c. Ground water nitrates
7 Bacteriogenic Bacterial products or reduction Copper, coal, oil
8 Sublimation Sublimates Sulfur
Graphite, asbestos, talc,
9 Metamorphism Metamorphic deposits soapstone, silimanite,
garnet etc
Oxidation & Supergene Oxidised deposits
10 Copper, lead, zinc etc
enrichment Supergene enrichment deposits
Magnetite, iron, copper
11 Contact metasomatic Contact metasomatic
etc
Syngenetic deposits are those that have been formed simultaneously with the enclosing rock. These
may be either sedimentary or igneous in origin.
Epigenetic deposits include deposits that were formed subsequent to the formation of enclosing
rock. Epigenetic deposits of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic origin are known.
In another method of classification, ore minerals are divided into: Hypogene (primary)
deposits and Supergene (secondary) deposits, the later having been formed as an alteration product
of the hypogene deposits through weathering and related processes.
Various processes may be involved in the formation of an ore deposit. Sometimes the
deposits may be result of simple mechanical process like concentration of minerals of economic
value through an agent of transport; at other times, however, much complicated chemical process
like crystallization or physico-chemical changes like metamorphism may be involved.

A. Magmatic deposits:
During crystallization of magma, many minerals of economic value may get concentrated
towards the bottom or margins or other places within the cooling body of the magma. These
concentrations are some times of such nature and size that their economic exploitation is feasible.
In fact, they are major and very important source of some of the common minerals. Eg: diamond,
chromite, magnetite, apatite, titanium, iron ores etc.
Concentration of the economic minerals may take place during the earlier or later stages of
magmatic crystallization and on this basis they are often differentiated into early and late
magmatic concentrations. The stage of their formation is easily revealed by their relationships with
the enclosing rocks

1. Early magmatic deposits:


The mineral deposits which are formed during the early stages of the magmatic period.
These can be subdivided into
a) Segregations b) Disseminations and c) Injections

a) Magmatic segregations:
In magmatic segregations, economic minerals get concentrated more or less at the place of
their formations. Eg: along the bottom or margins of an igneous body. Thus in the process of
crystallization, the crystals formed in a melt may settle along the bottom due to gravity (gravitative
settling), eg: chromite. Similarly, differentiation may be caused at a ‘later’ stage from a residual
liquid (most of the magma having already been crystallised) enriched in some ore mineral
components. This process is termed as ‘Residual liquid segregation, eg: titanium iron ores.
b) Magmatic disseminations:
In magmatic disseminations, the economic minerals are dispersed at random in the cooled
igneous body. Sometimes there may be of tremendous economic value and especially when their
dispersion in limited to some parts of the body of a mass; in such cases, whole of the rock mass
may be mined economically for extraction of the disseminated crystals or patches. Diamond
commonly occurs as disseminated crystals in massive rocks. This is its mode of occurrence in the
famous diamond pipes of South Africa where the mineral occurs as dispersed crystal in ultrabasic
igneous rocks called Kimberlites.
c) Magmatic injections:
Magmatic injections are actually thin lenticular or slightly tabular bodies of minerals that
appear as having been intruded or injected into the host rocks. When magma rises up with sufficient
hydrostatic forces, it may intrude into available fractures and fissures of the surrounding rocks
where it may cool down at a later stage and form minerals that may be of economic value. Injection
deposits may be formed at an earlier or later stage of magmatic crystallization and this depends
upon the composition of the magma and the environment of crystallization. Those formed from
residual liquid at a later stage are termed Residual liquid injection.

i) Magmatic segregations - Chromite concentrates on the bottom of the magma chamber

ii. Magmatic disseminations iii. Magmatic injections

2. Late magmatic deposits:


The ore deposits which are formed towards the close of the Magmatic period are called ‘Late
magmatic deposits’. These deposits have been classified into four groups
a. Residual liquid segregation: In magma, particularly basic magma undergoing
crystallization becomes progressively richer in silica, alkali and water. It sometimes
enriched in iron and titanium. This heavy residual liquid may segregate and crystallise
within the parent igneous mass. Such ore bodies commonly occur in the form of parallel
bands and may form valuable ore deposits. Eg: titaniferous magnetite.
b. Residual liquid injection: In this case, the residual liquid may be squeezed out and get
injected into surrounding country rock. Such deposits usually occur in the form of veins,
dykes or sills.
c. Immiscible liquid segregation: when a mafic magma cools, the sulphide rich immiscible
liquid separate out and accumulates at the bottom of the igneous body. This separation is
similar to that of oil and water. The immiscible liquid consists mainly of sulphides of iron,
nickel and copper. These deposit commonly at the bottom of the differentiated mafic
intrusives as disconnected bodies.
d. Immiscible liquid injection: Sulphide rich immiscible liquid which separates out during the
differentiation of mafic magma may get injected into the enclosing rock. On consolidation it
forms the ‘immiscible liquid injection deposit.

B. Hydrothermal processes (Hydrothermal deposits)


This is another distinct group of economic minerals which has been formed from cooling of
gaseous and liquid solutions in cavities, fissures and pore spaces of the rocks, i.e., wherever these
solutions find a place to enter. The solvent in such cases is very often superheated steam emanating
from magmas towards the final stages of crystallization.
As magmas crystallize, hot water-rich hydrothermal fluids may be released from the melt.
The fluids are rich in S, Na, K, Cu, Sn, W and other elements with relatively high solubilities.
Hydrothermal fluids dissolve other elements as they flow through rocks and eventually cool to
deposit minerals in hydrothermal deposits. Hydrothermal deposits vary in size from huge networks
of veins covering many sq.kms to small veinlets only cms in width. Large copper and molybdenum
deposits, gold, antimony, lead-zinc deposits are examples.
The three essential conditions for the formation of hydrothermal deposits are a) highly
active and enriched fluids b) suitable pathways for their migration through the rocks and c) suitable
physico-chemical environments for their deposition to take place.
As regards superheated steam, it is an essential component of many magmatic melts and
remains dispersing around the magma body till it cools down to a solid mass. The steam is capable
of containing within it, in dissolved form, metallic elements like gold, copper, tungsten,
molybdenum and to some extent silver, lead and zinc etc. These elements are crystallised out as
enriched solution pass upwards and suffer cooling and loss of pressure.
The fissures or fractures through which the fluids travel may be of primary or secondary
character. Bedding planes, porosity and joints are examples of primary spaces where as faults,
solution cavities, fissures and jointing are examples of secondary origin.
The question of describing the physico-chemical environment responsible for deposition of
economic minerals from the hydrothermal solution remains unanswered yet. The deposition may
occur due to
a) Changes in temperature and pressure
b) Chemical reaction between constituents of gas-liquids solutions
c) Chemical reaction between constituents and host rock.
Hydrothermal deposits occur in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common broad
based forms are: veins and cavity fillings.
Veins are narrow, elongated or tabular bodies of economic minerals occurring within a host
rock of entirely different composition and origin. These are further distinguished into following
types:
i) Fissure veins: these may be defined as mineral bodies of elongated or tabular shape deposited
in pre-existing fissures. The original fissures may be parallel or intersecting, radial or fan-
shaped in pattern and that is also the shape of the resulting ore bodies.
ii) Ladder veins: This are commonly found in igneous rocks such as dikes and similar bodies and
consists of transverse, roughly regularly spaced fractures that are filled with deposits of
economic minerals. These veins give a ladder-like impression in vertical section, hence the
name.
iii) Gash veins: These are narrow sloping and thick bodied deposits of minerals deposited in
solution-fissures or cracks of the host rock which is generally a carbonate rock like limestone.
iv) Stock works: The term is used for hydrothermal deposits that occur in veins or fissures of
exceptionally small size, but in good number, within a limited space, traversing the body of
rock profusely. Mining in such cases involves removal of the entire rock body containing the
stock work.
Cavity fillings are such ore bodies that get deposited from the hydrothermal fluids in well
defined open spaces available in the host rock. A small or big cavity occurring in a rock when got
filled with a mineral deposit would qualify as a cavity filling. It may be regular or irregular in
outline. The resulting deposit from cavity fillings may be quite massive.
Another interesting example of filling is provided by the so-called Saddle-reefs. These are
mineralized cavities associated with the folded rocks comprising beds of competent and
incompetent nature. In such cases hydrothermal solutions find pathways in the weak zones along
axial regions and deposit their minerals in those zones.
Fissure veins Ladder veins Gash veins

Stock works Saddle-reefs

C. Submarine exhalative volcanic deposits:


Deposits in this major group have formed by hydrothermal fluid exhalation through
(hydrothermal vents) and onto the sea floor. The fluids can be variably derived from sub-surface
magmas or circulated sea. The deposits include Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (VMS) deposits
formed in active submarine volcanic settings and exhalative deposits in predominantly sedimentary
basins. Hydrothermal vents are found all along the mid-oceanic ridges. These vents are nicknamed
“black smokers” for the dark clouds of sulfide minerals issuing from them, which create metal-rich
mud on the seafloor. It is now widely accepted that a major portion of most seafloor deposits
formed beneath the surface either by continued fluid infiltration and deposition in earlier formed
sulphide mounds or reaction of later fluids with weakly consolidated sulphide mud.

D. Sublimation deposits:
Sublimation is the process of mineral deposits associated with volcanism, thermal springs and
fumaroles. These sublimates deposited at or near the surface at low temperature and pressure due to
sudden cooling of the vapours emanating from volcanoes or fumaroles. These deposits are
generally very small and rather superficial and are seldom useful from the economic point of view.
The sulphur deposits are the best examples of deposits by this process. Several other sublimates,
such as chlorides of copper, iron, zinc etc are formed in this way are quickly washed away.
Eg: Sulphur and borax of Puga area, Ladakh

E. Contact metasomatic deposits:


The process of Metasomatism is responsible for a great variety of mineral deposits and
involves essentially ‘simultaneous’ solution of the pre-existing mineral constituents and their
replacement by the new minerals, which may be of some economic value.
The process may be quite simple or complex in nature; both liquid and gaseous solutions
may be individually or mutually responsible for the change to take place. Liquid solutions are
however, credited with a major role in the formation of ore deposits. Temperature and pressure are
not binding factor for replacement to occur but the fact remains that at high temperature the
replacement occurs on enhanced scale.

Every rock is susceptible to replacement but not all are ‘equally’ responsive. Best suited for
this purpose are those of carbonate groups, i.e., limestone and dolomites. Igneous rocks are also
attacked by these solutions with relative case. Sandstone, quartzites and argillaceous rocks are least
susceptible.
All magmas do not rise to contact metasomatic deposits. Mostly felsic intrusives of
intermediate composition such as monzonites and granodiorites as they carry constituents of ores
which replaces the invaded rocks to form ore deposits.
The replacement deposits may occur in the form of veins, lodes or zones which are
conveniently termed sheet-lodes or sheet-zones etc. Common deposits formed from metasomatic
replacement include copper, lead, zinc, gold, pyrites and many others.

Sedimentary processes:
Some of the very important deposits of iron ores, copper, gold, phosphates and coal are
purely sedimentary in definition. These are deposited through the process of ‘Sedimentation’ which
involves removal of the particles or ore-minerals from source rock by aqueous of weathering and its
subsequent concentration at favourable places.
Important stages in the evolution of sedimentary deposits are:
1) Weathering of parent rocks: every sedimentary deposit actually represents re-accumulated
material from a source rock that may be any distance away from it. The source rock supplies the
material through the process of weathering and erosion by which it decays and disintegrates
into smaller units that are transported to the fields of deposition.
2) Transport of material: Material supplied by the source rock may be transported in a variety of
ways; eg. in suspension, in solution or under gravitational pull. Solution is an important process
and is responsible for transport of such materials like iron, manganese, copper, carbonates and
phosphates of calcium and magnesium. Carbonated water, sulphate solutions and organic acids
are some of the natural solvents which may act as media of transport for soluble particles.
3) Deposition from such enriched solutions may take place again under many conditions eg:
chemically (due to reactions), bio-chemically (reactions initiated by some bacteria) and also
mechanically. Evaporation is commonly known chemical process that is very important in the
deposition of many economic minerals like common salt, chlorides and sulphates.

F. Sedimentary deposits:
The term sedimentary mineral deposits applied to any local concentration of minerals
formed through processes of sedimentation.
Banded Iron Formations (BIF):
One very special type of sedimentary ore deposits are the banded iron formation, which are
the largest source of iron on Earth. The structures consist of repeated thin layers of iron oxides,
either magnetite or hematite, alternating with bands of iron-poor shale and chert. BIFs represent the
most important global source of iron ore and far outweigh the ironstone in terms of reserves and
total production.
Formation: Rain would first of all wash iron ions from the earth's land surface into the ocean.
Oxygen from the cyanobacteria living in the ocean
water reacted with the dissolved iron (the iron ions) to
form hematite or magnetite. These two minerals
precipitated out of the water to form a layer on the sea
bed. This is what produced the black layers.
Periodically the oxygen production would
decrease or stop (rising oxygen levels might have killed
the cyanobacteria or seasonal changes in incoming
sunlight might have slowed the photosynthesis). During
these times of low oxygen concentration, chert/jasper
would form on the ocean bottom. Eventually the cyanobacteria would recover, begin producing
oxygen again, and a new layer of hematite or magnetite would form. The rocks that resulted,
containing alternating layers of black hematite or magnetite and layers of chert/jasper are known as
the Banded Iron formation. In addition to the red and black layers, you see yellow layers made of
fibers of quartz in the samples passed around class.
Another example is formation of manganese nodules (hydrogenous). They precipitate from
deep ocean water when the Mn oxidizes: Mn+2 (dissolved) + O2 + 2e- = MnO2 (pyrolusite)

G. Residual deposits:
Residual deposits are formed due to chemical weathering of rock body followed by removal
of the undesirable material thereby leaving the concentrates of the economic minerals at the site of
the original rock. During chemical weathering and original body of rock is greatly reduced in
volume by the process of leaching, which removes ions from the original rock. Elements that are
not leached from the rock thus occur in higher concentration in the residual rock. These types of
deposits form as a result of intense chemical weathering in warm tropical climates that receive high
temperatures and high amounts of rainfall which produces highly leached soils rich in both iron and
aluminium. The economic minerals are generally those that cannot be dissolved or weathered under
normal process of weathering. Iron, manganese, bauxite, nickel and gold are only a few examples
of residual concentrations. The kyanite deposits of Singhbhum occur in the form of residual
boulders.

H. Mechanical concentrations
Mechanical concentrations of economic minerals are caused through the aid of some
moving agency like wind or water transports the materials away from the source rock. During the
transport, settling of heavier components may take place at an early stage under the influence of
gravity. These heavier concentrates are often of economic value and thus form another type of
mineral deposit.

In the common language, these mechanical concentrations are termed as ‘Placer deposits’
and have proved to be best known sources of many economic minerals including gold and
platinum.
Erosion tends to transport and concentrate moderate to heavy metallic ores in stream or
beach placer deposits. The metals may have originally been precipitated in veins as a result of an
igneous intrusion.
I. Oxidation and supergene enrichment:
The process of weathering and erosion upon or near the earth’s surface may, under
favourable conditions lead to the development of mineral deposits of economic importance. The
mineral deposits of this type occur more or less in-situ and are produced as a result of concentration
of the desired minerals either due to
a. Removable of undesirable constituents (either in solution or in suspension, from the country
rocks or pre-existing mineral deposits) or due to
b. Oxidation and solutions of the useful minerals (occurring in the pre-existing mineral
deposit) and their re-deposition under favourable conditions.
The former process of known as residual concentration while the latter is described as
oxidation and secondary (or supergene) enrichment.
The processes of oxidation and supergene enrichment assume a leading role in upgrading
mineral deposits of inferior quality. Upon the surface of the earth, weathering and erosion of the
country rocks may cause partial exposure of the underlying ore deposits. In an ore deposit of this
type which outcrops upon the surface and continues up to a certain depth, oxidising conditions
prevail above the water table. Below the water table, on the other hand, the environment offers
conditions suitable for reduction, since the openings within the ore body and adjacent country-rocks
are within this zone, completely saturated with ground water. The portion of the ore body lying the
above the water table is described as the zone of oxidation. Since, within this zone, the ore minerals
forming the deposit may be oxidized readily in the presence of air and water.
Oxidation, solution and subsequent downward movement of the valuable ore minerals, lead
to the concentration of useless residual materials and some of the desiccated products of oxidation
upon the surface, where the orebody had its outcrop and there together form an
intensely oxidized, weathered or decomposed rock known Gossan or Cap-rock.
The gosaan is made up of principally of limonite, gangue minerals and some of the oxidised
products of the ore minerals and sometimes serves as an indication for the occurrence of useful ore
deposits underneath.
Therefore mineral deposits formed as a result of secondary processes such as leaching of the
ore components and their subsequent concentration at lower depths is known as process of
secondary enrichment. Very important sulphide deposits are formed by oxidation and supergene
enrichment processes.

J. Evaporites
Evaporites are water-soluble mineral sediment (chemical sediment) that result originally
precipitated from saline solution concentrated and crystallization by solar evaporation from an
aqueous solution. Evaporites found in both marine and non-marine environments. However most of
the evaporites are derived from bodies of Sea-water, but under special conditions. Inland lakes may
also give rise to evaporite deposits, particularly in regions of low rainfall and high temperature.
Evaporites experiences net evaporation, the concentration of the ions dissolved in that water rises
until the saturation point of various materials is exceeded and minerals precipitate or crystallize.

The chief minerals which occur as evaporation deposits are calcite, anhydrite, gypsum,
halite, sylvite etc. Many of these minerals are economically significant.
Evaporation proceeds most rapidly in warm, arid climates. In the evaporation of bodies of
saline water, concentration of the soluble salts occurs and when super saturation of any salt is
reached, that salt is precipitated. The factors controlling the deposition of evaporite minerals are
solubility contents, temperature and pressure, depositional environment and seasonal and climatic
changes.

K. Metamorphic deposits:
Metamorphism is a natural process of change brought out in rocks of all types when
subjected to changed conditions of temperature, pressure and chemically active fluids. In this
process, pre-existing rocks and minerals of economic value may undergo metamorphic changes.
Such deposits may be simply called as metamorphosed deposits. In a truly metamorphic deposit,
however, new minerals or rocks of some economic value are formed as a result of metamorphic
changes. Examples of this type include marble deposits formed from metamorphism of limestone,
slate deposits formed from metamorphism of shales and refractory minerals like kyanite, silimanite,
andalusite, the insulating minerals like muscovite, asbestos and abrasives like garnet and corundum
and many others like iron ores, copper, graphite etc.