Metamorphic deposits are a type of mineral deposit that forms as a result of metamorphism, which is the process by which rocks are altered due to changes in temperature, pressure, and chemical environment. During metamorphism, pre-existing rocks undergo a process of recrystallization, and new minerals may grow in response to changes in their surroundings. Metamorphic deposits can contain a wide range of minerals, including precious and base metals, and can occur in a variety of rock types, such as schists, gneisses, and marbles.

Skarn Deposit

The economic significance of metamorphic deposits can vary widely, depending on the specific minerals they contain and the geological conditions that led to their formation. Some examples of economically important metamorphic deposits include the lead-zinc deposits in the Tri-State Mining District in the United States, the copper-gold deposits of the Olympic Dam mine in Australia, and the platinum group element deposits of the Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa.

Exploration for metamorphic deposits can involve a range of techniques, such as geological mapping, geophysical surveys, and geochemical analyses. Because metamorphic deposits are often associated with particular rock types and geological structures, such as faults and folds, knowledge of the regional geology and tectonic history can be crucial in identifying potential targets. Additionally, understanding the mineralogical and chemical changes that occur during metamorphism can help to identify the types of minerals that may be present in metamorphic deposits.

As with any type of mining activity, there can be environmental issues associated with the development and operation of metamorphic deposits. For example, the extraction and processing of minerals can result in the generation of waste materials and the release of potentially harmful chemicals into the environment. However, with proper planning and management, it is possible to minimize the environmental impact of mining and to ensure that any negative effects are mitigated as much as possible.

Types of Metamorphic Deposits

Metamorphic deposits can be broadly categorized into two types: (1) those formed by the metamorphism of pre-existing mineral deposits, and (2) those formed by the metamorphism of pre-existing rocks that contain only low levels of mineralization.

The first type includes metamorphosed mineral deposits such as lead-zinc deposits, which can be transformed into lead-zinc-rich gneisses or schists through regional metamorphism. The second type includes metamorphosed sedimentary rocks, such as marble, quartzite, and slate, which can be mineralized during the metamorphic process.

There are also some types of metamorphic deposits that are unique to specific types of metamorphism, such as skarn deposits that form during contact metamorphism, and some types of iron oxide-copper-gold deposits that form during hydrothermal metamorphism.

Formation Processes and Mineralogy

Metamorphic deposits are formed when pre-existing rocks are subjected to high temperatures and pressures, resulting in the recrystallization of minerals and the formation of new minerals. There are several types of metamorphic deposits, including:

  1. Skarn deposits: These are formed when carbonate rocks are subjected to heat and pressure from an adjacent igneous intrusion, leading to the replacement of the original minerals with new minerals, such as garnet, wollastonite, and diopside.
  2. Marble deposits: These are formed when limestone or dolomite is subjected to heat and pressure, resulting in the recrystallization of the original minerals into large interlocking crystals of calcite or dolomite.
  3. Quartzite deposits: These are formed from sandstone that has been subjected to intense heat and pressure, resulting in the recrystallization of the original minerals into interlocking grains of quartz.
  4. Graphite deposits: These are formed when carbonaceous material, such as coal, is subjected to high temperatures and pressures, leading to the formation of graphite.
  5. Schist deposits: These are formed from shale or mudstone that has been subjected to heat and pressure, resulting in the recrystallization of the original minerals into large, flat, platy minerals, such as mica and chlorite.

The mineralogy of metamorphic deposits varies depending on the composition of the original rock, the intensity of the heat and pressure, and the presence of fluids during the metamorphic process. Common minerals found in metamorphic deposits include quartz, feldspar, mica, garnet, and various types of metamorphic rocks, such as gneiss, schist, and marble.

Economic Significance and Uses

Metamorphic deposits can have economic significance, particularly in the form of ore deposits. The minerals in these deposits can be concentrated by metamorphic processes such as recrystallization, metasomatism, and deformation. However, metamorphic deposits are generally less economically significant than magmatic or hydrothermal deposits.

Some types of metamorphic deposits, such as certain types of marble, are used as building materials and decorative stones. Certain types of metamorphic rocks can also be used as industrial minerals, such as talc, which is used in a variety of products including ceramics, paint, and plastics. Metamorphic deposits can also be sources of gemstones, such as certain types of corundum (e.g. rubies and sapphires) and certain types of garnet.

Exploration Techniques

Exploration techniques for metamorphic deposits can vary depending on the deposit type, location, and other factors. Some of the exploration techniques that may be used to identify and evaluate metamorphic deposits include:

  1. Field mapping: This involves the identification and mapping of outcrops and geological structures in the field. The data collected during field mapping can be used to identify and evaluate potential areas for mineral deposits.
  2. Geochemical sampling: This involves the collection and analysis of rock, soil, water, or vegetation samples to determine the presence and concentration of mineralization. Geochemical sampling can help identify potential areas for further exploration.
  3. Geophysical surveys: This involves the use of various geophysical methods to measure physical properties of rocks and minerals in the subsurface. Geophysical surveys can help identify areas with high potential for mineral deposits.
  4. Remote sensing: This involves the use of satellite or aerial imagery to identify and map surface features that may indicate the presence of mineralization. Remote sensing can be used to identify potential areas for exploration.
  5. Drilling: This involves the drilling of boreholes to collect geological data and samples from the subsurface. Drilling is an important technique for evaluating the depth and extent of mineralization in an area.
  6. Petrographic analysis: This involves the examination of thin sections of rock samples under a microscope to identify the mineralogy, texture, and structure of the rock. Petrographic analysis can help identify the presence of metamorphic minerals and the metamorphic grade of the rocks.
  7. Structural analysis: This involves the examination of geological structures such as faults, folds, and fractures to understand the deformation history of the rocks. Structural analysis can help identify areas where mineralization may have been concentrated due to deformation.

Overall, a combination of these techniques is often used in the exploration and evaluation of metamorphic deposits.

Environmental Issues

The environmental issues associated with metamorphic deposits are similar to those of other types of mineral deposits, and can include soil and water contamination, as well as habitat destruction and fragmentation. The extraction and processing of minerals from metamorphic deposits can lead to the generation of waste materials, such as tailings, that may contain hazardous substances that can leach into the surrounding environment if not managed properly. The use of heavy machinery in mining operations can also result in noise pollution and dust emissions, which can negatively impact the health of workers and nearby communities.

In addition, the exploration and development of metamorphic deposits can disrupt local ecosystems and habitats. For example, deforestation and other land-use changes associated with mining and exploration can lead to the loss of habitat for native plants and animals. This can have ripple effects throughout the food web, potentially leading to declines in biodiversity and ecosystem health. To mitigate these impacts, mining companies may be required to undertake environmental impact assessments and develop plans to mitigate and manage potential environmental risks associated with their operations.


  1. Guilbert, J. M., & Park, Jr, C. F. (2007). The geology of ore deposits. Waveland Press.
  2. Evans, A. M. (1993). Ore geology and industrial minerals: an introduction. Wiley-Blackwell.
  3. Lowell, J. D., & Guilbert, J. M. (1970). Lateral and vertical alteration-mineralization zoning in porphyry ore deposits. Economic Geology, 65(4), 373-408.
  4. Singer, D. A., Berger, V. I., & Moring, B. C. (2005). Porphyry copper deposits of the world: database and grade and tonnage models, 2004. US Geological Survey Open-File Report, 05-1060.
  5. Kesler, S. E., & Wilkinson, B. H. (2019). Sediment-hosted mineral deposits: An overview. Ore Geology Reviews, 104, 260-279.
  6. Hedenquist, J. W., Arribas Jr, A., & González-Urien, E. (2000). Exploration for epithermal gold deposits. Reviews in Economic Geology, 13, 245-277.
  7. Hofstra, A. H. (2014). Kimberlite and diamond geology of the Lundazi district, Zambia. Ore Geology Reviews, 57, 215-245.
  8. Simmons, S. F. (2005). Carlin-type gold deposits in Nevada: critical geologic characteristics and viable models. Economic Geology, 100(8), 1233-1262.