US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in U. S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-195, 1-217, (2002)


Since the beginning of economic geology as a subdiscipline of the geological sciences, economic geologists have tended to classify mineral deposits on the basis of geological, mineralogical, and geochemical criteria, in efforts to systematize our understanding of mineral deposits as an aid to exploration. These efforts have lead to classifications based on commodity, geologic setting (Cox and Singer, 1986), inferred temperatures and pressures of ore formation (Lindgren, 1933), and genetic setting (Park and MacDiarmid, 1975; Jensen and Bateman, 1979). None of these classification schemes is mutually exclusive; instead, there is considerable overlap among all of these classifications. A natural outcome of efforts to classify mineral deposits is the development of “mineral deposit models”. A mineral deposit model is a systematically arranged body of information that describes some or all of the essential characteristics of a selected group of mineral deposits; it presents a concept within which essential attributes may be distinguished and from which extraneous, coincidental features may be recognized and excluded (Barton, 1993). Barton (1993) noted that the grouping of deposits on the basis of common characteristics forms the basis for a classification, but the specification of the characteristics required for belonging to the group is the basis for a model. Models range from purely descriptive to genetic. A genetic model is superior to a descriptive model because it provides a basis to distinguish essential from extraneous attributes, and it has flexibility to accommodate variability in sources, processes, and local controls. In general, a descriptive model is a necessary prerequisite to a genetic model.