Short course - Geochemistry of Hydrothermal Ore Deposits

The University of Ottawa Joint Modular Courses in Hydrothermal Ore Deposits are intensive 8-day short courses on the geology and genesis of ore deposits. This year's course will focus on the fundamentals of mineral-chemical systems in hydrothermal ore deposits, including practical aspects of ore element geochemistry, alteration mineral assemblages, water-rock interactions and the techniques to recognize them.

Leading experts will provide an introduction to concepts that are critical to understanding mineral stabilities and controls on metal solubility in hydrothermal systems, P-T-pH-redox conditions and their importance in ore formation and alteration, and the integration of basic field and laboratory analyses to unravel these processes. Participants will receive instruction and hands-on experience in the acquisition and analysis of data relevant to a wide range of hydrothermal systems, and they will explore case studies developed for some of the world's most important ore deposit types.

The material will be suitable for graduate students with advanced 3rd and 4th-year training in ore deposits and for professionals in industry. Lectures will draw from standard texts, such as Geochemistry of Hydrothermal Ore Deposits, and the training will provide the non-specialist with the ability to use techniques widely applied in research and exploration. Exercises will be performed in class on the interpretation of laboratory analyses of rocks, minerals, ores and fluids, and emphasizing concepts and approaches that can be employed in the field.

The course will be presented as four 2-day modules that focus on the following topics:

  • Practical guides to the ore elements, minerals and fluids
  • Analyzing rocks, minerals and fluids in hydrothermal systems
  • Fluid-Rock interaction and processes of hydrothermal alteration
  • Case studies of magmatic-hydrothermal and seawater-dominated systems
  • Applications to exploration

The course is open to graduate students from any university as well as professionals.  Credit transfer toward degree programs is possible for Ontario students, and industry participants may receive credit for professional training requirements.  The course corresponds to GEO5306 at the University of Ottawa.

Course Timetable

Days 1 and 2: A Practical Guide to the Ore Elements, Minerals and Fluids

Hydrothermal fluids can transport the full spectrum of ore elements from A to Z. The sources of those elements, the transport mechanisms and the controls on precipitation fundamentally determine where and when mineral deposits form. But how do geochemically scarce elements with very low crustal abundances become concentrated in ore-forming fluids and ultimately precipitate as ore deposits? Why are some ore elements found in one deposit type but not in others? Most geologists have a general understanding of factors such as source rock and temperature − Cu-rich ores commonly form at high temperature, and Zn-rich ores form at lower temperature. But why does this happen? The first day of this module will address these questions using simple mineral-chemical models and geochemical data from ore-forming fluids in a range of different deposit types. The second day will explore the basic principles of ore mineral stabilities, and how to interpret the mineralogy of hydrothermal ore deposits in terms of fundamental controls on ore formation and hydrothermal alteration (temperature, pH, redox state). We will examine why some deposits contain only pyrite and others mostly pyrrhotite or magnetite, why some are dominated by feldspar alteration and others by muscovite, and learn some simple rules to understand how these kinds of mineralogical differences come about. Observations in drill core and in the field will be linked to experimental data to help understand processes ranging from ore mineral zoning to replacement.

Days 3 and 4: Analyzing Rocks, Minerals and Fluids in Hydrothermal Systems

Exploration companies routinely employ commercial laboratories that can analyze the entire periodic table of elements in rocks and minerals, but how can you use all of that data to improve the search for ore? What techniques should be applied to answer specific questions about fluid-rock interaction and ore formation? How can these different methods be used to trace the behaviour of hot aqueous fluids in the crust and the geochemical evolution of those fluids in ore-forming systems. The first day of this module will examine the analytical methods best suited to understanding water-rock interaction and constraining the physical and chemical properties of different ore systems. Questions that will be addressed include what types of samples to analyze, sample preparation techniques (e.g., different digestions, partial and sequential leaching), different approaches to rock and mineral analysis (atomic absorption, ICP-MS multielement techniques, XRF, reflectance spectroscopy, in situ analyses), and their application in different exploration scenarios. We will examine how to use geochemical data on rocks, minerals and fluids to “fingerprint” different ore-forming processes and "navigate" within hydrothermal systems, and we will examine the origins of different types of fluids (e.g., including processes of phase separation, fluid mixing, and exsolution from magmas). The second day will be an opportunity to visit different laboratories of the Advanced Research Complex at the University of Ottawa. Participants will conduct actual laboratory analysis of minerals and produce data that will be discussed in the course.

Days 5 and 6: Fluid-rock Interaction and Processes of Hydrothermal Alteration

Hydrothermal ore deposits are the end products of focusing fluids through porous and permeable media, which results in a wide range of fluid-rock interactions. The site of ore deposition may be proximal to the source of the fluids, as in magmatic related deposits, or distal, as in mesothermal gold or MVT deposits. This module will explore multidisciplinary approaches to the study of hydrothermal alteration required to fully characterize the complex evolution and pathways of ore-forming fluids in different settings. The first day will examine the reactions that take place between fluids and rocks, building on the understanding of ore fluid compositions, mineral stabilities, and how fluids behave in hydrothermal systems. Mineralogy and mineral chemistry will be reviewed at a basic level, integrating field work and observations in drill core with petrography, SEM-EDS applications, and isotopic studies to unravel processes of hydrothermal alteration that are most important for ore formation and exploration. This includes identifying reaction progress and especially the directions in which fluids flowed (e.g., through mineral zoning and replacement) as fundamental guides in exploration. The second day will focus on examples of fluid evolution and alteration in different types of magmatic-hydrothermal systems and the relationship to source rocks and magma evolution. Throughout the module, the emphasis will be on identifying features that are directly observable in the field and under the microscope.

Days 7 and 8: Case Studies −  Magmatic-Hydrothermal and Seawater-Dominated Systems

This final 2-day session will apply the principles of mineral-chemical systems, hydrothermal geochemistry and fluid evolution to the interpretation of case studies of porphyry, epithermal, and volcanic-hosted massive sulfide deposits. The emphasis will be on application of the mineral systems approach to address key questions about different ore-forming systems: what were the sources of the metals, what drove hydrothermal fluids through the crust, where did the fluids become trapped, and what caused the deposition of the ore minerals? The first day will focus on ore deposits in subaerial volcanic arcs, drawing from examples of major porphyry and epithermal deposits. We will examine the sources and pathways of the most productive hydrothermal fluids to gain a better understanding the size and diversity of the deposits produced. An important aspect of this part of the course will be knowledge gained from modern analogues in active geothermal environments. The final day will explore hydrothermal ore deposits associated with submarine volcanism, followed by a discussion and in-class exam that will draw on lessons from the entire course.

  • Mark Hannington is Professor of Economic Geology and Goldcorp Chair in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Ottawa. He obtained his PhD at the University of Toronto (1989) and spent 15 years as a research scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada before moving to the University of Ottawa in 2005. His research combines the study of active volcanoes on the ocean floor and associated metal-depositing hot springs ("black smoker vents") with research on ancient volcanic environments that host VMS deposits. He has participated on 29 research cruises to active submarine volcanoes on the East Pacific Rise, Juan de Fuca Ridge, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Mediterranean, Iceland, New Zealand, Tonga, New Hebrides, Antarctica, and Papua New Guinea, mostly with the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research (GEOMAR) in Kiel, Germany. He has also conducted major research projects on VMS systems , including the giant Kidd Creek deposit, the gold-rich LaRonde deposit, and regional-scale hydrothermal alteration in the Noranda district. Dr. Hannington was editor of the journal Economic Geology from 2001 to 2008.
  • Matthew Leybourne is Associate Professor of Geochemistry in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering at Queen's University in Kingston. He is a graduate of the University of Waikato in New Zealand and Acadia University, and he received his PhD from the University of Ottawa. He worked extensively on the hydrogeochemistry of surface waters for the Mineral Resources Division of the Geological Survey of Canada, before taking a position as Assistant Professor of Geochemistry at the University of Texas in Austin where he established a new ICP-ES/MS and IC geochemical facility. In 2006 he moved to New Zealand, where he was Senior Scientist at GNS responsible for fluid geochemistry of active submarine hydrothermal systems. He established a new ICP-MS laboratory at GNS and was Object Leader in the NZ offshore minerals program. In 2012 he moved back to Canada to become the Senior Geochemist at ALS Minerals in Vancouver, where he provided technical and scientific leadership in method development and applications. His diverse career has made him one of the leading experts in Canada on geochemistry applied to mineral exploration and hydrothermal ore deposits.
  • Daniel J. Kontak is Professor of Economic Geology at Laurentian University. He studied at St. Francis Xavier University and the University of Alberta where he worked on the metallogeny of uranium in the Central Mineral Belt of Labrador. He completed a PhD at Queen's University in 1985 on the metallogeny of granite-related mineral deposits in the Andes. From 1986 to 2006, Prof. Kontak was the leading economic geologist with the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, where he worked on a variety of mineral resource projects, including granite Sn‑W‑Ta‑base metals, pegmatite Ta‑Li, metamorphic and intrusion related Au, VHMS, porphyry Cu‑Mo‑Au, carbonate Zn‑Pb‑Ba, and industrial minerals (barite, zeolites). He joined the faculty of Laurentian University in 2006. His research interests span the geological setting of base and precious metal deposits with an emphasis on integrating field and laboratory studies to unravel the nature and origin of the mineralizing environment, from regional to local scales, including geochronology, petrology, stable and radiogenic tracers, whole rock and mineral chemistry and fluid chemistry. He serves in many roles in the geoscience community in Canada, including Past President of the Mineralogical Association of Canada.
  • J. Bruce Gemmell is the former Director of the world-leading Centre for Ore Deposits Research (CODES) and Head of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Tasmania.  Bruce obtained his BSc from the University of British Columbia and MSc and PhD (1987) from Dartmouth College. His early research was on the trace metal geochemistry of volcanic gases from active volcanoes in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and the geology and mineralogy of epithermal Ag veins in Mexico. Bruce later gained extensive experience in a wide range of ore deposit types, including landmark research on the volcanic-hosted massive sulfide deposits of Western Tasmania and the North American cordillera, where he has worked extensively in mineral exploration, as well as on modern seafloor hydrothermal systems. More recently he and his students have conducted detailed research on base and precious metal vein systems in Indonesia and South America, developing process-based exploration models focusing on zoning in the porphyry-epithermal transition. Bruce has supervised 40 MSc and PhD students and has won a number of awards for his teaching at UTAS. He and his team are well known for their industry-sponsored research and for their many short courses on mineral exploration delivered to international audiences worldwide. Bruce has been a member of the editorial boards of both Mineralium Deposita and Economic Geology, and he has been guest editor of numerous Special Issues of Economic Geology focusing on VHMS and epithermal ore deposits.  His now the Principal of Gemmell Geoscience Consulting.
Costs and Registration


Advanced undergraduate level (3rd or 4th-year) courses in geochemistry, petrology and ore deposits are strongly recommended. For students without prerequisites, permission from the course administrator is required.

Course Materials

A complete set of notes and related course material will be provided for each 2-day session of the course. These will form the basis for daily problem sets and practical exercises, and a final take-home exam.

Course Format and Evaluation

Students registered in the course will be evaluated on the basis of problem sets/exercises administered at the end of each day (60% of the final mark) and a final take-home exam based on lecture materials and reading related to the course (40% of the final mark). Time will be allocated at the end of each day to discuss materials presented in the class and assist with problem sets. The take-home exam will be due 1 week after the end of the course (November 4, 2017).

Professional Development

The course is applicable toward continuing education and professional development requirements for Professional Registration.


Fees will cover the costs of course notes and lunches. Fees for students will be $200 for the entire course ($300 after August 21). Fees for professional participants are $500 per 2-day session. No refunds will be granted after September 21.


Please consult the registration form for details concerning registration and payment. For additional information, contact Sarina Cotroneo at:

Sarina Cotroneo,
Department of Earth Sciences,
University of Ottawa,
25 Templeton Street,
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5
Tel: +1 (613) 562-5292
Fax: +1 (613) 562-5192


Graduate Student Credit and Registration

This course will correspond to University of Ottawa GEO 5306 and Laurentian University GEOL 5607 (3 credits). Students must attend the entire course for full credit. Students from any university are eligible to take the course. Students enrolled at ONTARIO universities wishing to transfer credit for this course to their home institution must complete an Ontario Visiting Graduate Student (OVGS) form. Contact your academic unit or your Graduate Studies office for the form. Students at NON-ONTARIO universities or those not registered in the OVGS program may receive credit from their home institutions, but you are responsible for obtaining the approval and credit from your own Department. Students at NON-ONTARIO universities (Canadian and non-Canadian) wishing to receive an official transcript from the University of Ottawa must be admitted to the University of Ottawa as Special Students and registered Part-Time. Please contact us by email for more information. All students will receive a letter from the course instructor indicating successful completion of the course and a course mark, where appropriate. However, only those students registered with the Ontario Visiting Graduate Student Program or as part-time students at the University of Ottawa will receive an official transcript. Other students are encouraged to discuss obtaining credit for this course with their home Departments.

Location and Services

Lectures will be held in the Faculty of Social Sciences Building on the University of Ottawa Campus. Surface and underground pay parking is available on the campus. The course has been scheduled during Reading Week, so some services may not be available. Information on local accommodations is available by email.

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