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Ore deposits of the future: Exploring for magmatic mineral systems on the Red Planet

Western Australia

On Earth and Mars, metals such as gold (Au), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu) and the platinum group elements (PGE) are heavily concentrated into the core and the lower mantle of the planet, residing primarily in reservoirs that are inaccessible to direct observation, sampling and exploitation (> 300 km deep). 

However, over the long geological history of both planets, mantle-derived magmas and cataclysmic volcanic eruptions brought large quantities of metals closer to surface. On Earth, these magmatic provinces host world-class Ni-Cu-PGE ore deposits, such as the ones associated with komatiites in the Archean (e.g. Agnew-Wiluna belt, Australia), ferropicrites in the Proterozoic (e.g. Pechenga, Russia), and picrites in the Phanerozoic (e.g. Noril’sk, Russia). However, it is not presently known where similar ore deposits occur on Mars.

This project wants to unravel the prospectivity of different Martian magmatic provinces to host large quantities of metals at exploitable depths (<1 km). An unprecedented opportunity exists to look at previously collected geophysical and geochemical datasets from Mars and apply new exploration targeting techniques developed on Earth.  An international team with a diverse set of skill and expertise will 1) re-process existing data generated over the past four decades of space missions and 2) apply state of the art geophysical and petrological modeling techniques developed on analogous terrestrial volcanic provinces. This will be a pivotal study given the strategic importance of noble and base metals in the construction of any infrastructure for a future Martian base.