Subduction: The recycling engine room for global metallogeny

David I. Groves, M. Santosh, Liang Zhang, Jun Deng, Li Qiang Yang, Qing Fei Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The formation of ore deposits, within mineral systems that represent highly anomalous concentrations of economic elements in localized parts of the Earth's crust, first requires an enriched and available source of those elements. In early Earth history, initial enrichment in the upper mantle was arguably through mantle plumes that even recycled metals from the core-mantle boundary. From the Mesoarchean onwards, the development of plate tectonics allowed subduction processes to be increasingly important in both recycling of elements from the upper mantle into the lower crust and from there into the upper crust where mineral deposits could form and be exploited. The most obvious expression of this recycling process is the direct association of porphyry-high-sulfidation epithermal-skarn Cu-Au-Ag +/- Mo systems and inboard fractionated granite-associated Sn-W systems with magmatic-hydrothermal fluids derived from subduction-related magmas in convergent margins, where epithermal Au-Ag systems also developed due to high thermal gradients. Syn-subduction VMS Cu-Zn-Pb(Au) systems were accreted at convergent margins. Most orogenic gold systems relate to fluids released through devolatilization of down-going subduction slabs and overlying metal-rich sediment wedges. More indirect associations relate to the ability of subduction zones to cause structural damage and metasomatize and fertilize sub-continental mantle lithosphere along the margins of bordering craton margins. Orogen collapse in the final stages of the subduction-related orogenic event led to asthenosphere upwelling and formation of proximal intrusion-related and more distal Carlin-type gold systems in continental basins on the craton margins. During subsequent orogenic events, previously metasomatized and fertilized mantle lithosphere was reactivated to release hydrothermal fluids to form many of the orogenic gold systems in eastern China. Reactivation of the metasomatized lithosphere also resulted in development of post-subduction hybrid or alkaline magmas that generated giant magmatic Kiruna-type Fe-P, carbonatite-related REE-Nb or Cu-P, and lamproite-related diamond systems, together with magmatic-hydrothermal IOCG mineral systems near craton margins. Subduction-damaged craton margins and their rift-related marginal basins became the sites of formation of Zambian Copper Belt-type deposits and the craton margins were reactivated during subsequent rifting allowing intrusion of giant Ni-Cu mafic–ultramafic bodies along lithosphere-tapping fault zones at those margins. Thus, subduction acts as the recycling engine room or factory responsible for many of the global giant mineral systems that are currently exploited.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104130
JournalOre Geology Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Subduction: The recycling engine room for global metallogeny'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this