Indium fractionation in the granites of SW England
B. Simons*, J.C.Ø. Andersen & R.K. Shail
Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, Penryn, TR10 9EZ.
*corresponding author: email@example.com
Abstract. Biotite granites in SW England are enriched in
Ge, In, and Sn whereas the topaz granites are enriched
in Li, Ga, Nb, Ta, Sb and W. Within biotite granites the
micas (biotite and muscovite) are the primary carriers of
Analysis of metasediment samples from the Porthscatho
formation, an analogue for the source of the granites, and
subsequent trace element modelling indicates that a
mantle contribution to the biotite granites is not required
for the critical metals. A model with 30% partial melting of
metasedimentary rocks and 10 to 50% subsequent
fractional crystallisation is sufficient for the biotite granites
to reach the observed indium concentrations. Topaz
granites require a more complex model.
Keywords: Granite. Trace element modelling. Indium.
1.1 Project rationale
The polymetallic mining district of SW England has
been exploited for a variety of metals including tin (Sn),
copper (Cu), zinc (Zn) and lead (Pb) since the Bronze
Age with the last mine closing in 1998. Now, with the
increasing need for speciality metals for new
technological developments (in the following called
critical metals) and increases in the price of traditional
commodities such as Sn and Cu, the area is once again
prospective. A combination of the traditional
commodities (Sn, Cu) alongside critical metals (In, W)
are key for current development at Hemerdon (Wolf
Minerals) and exploration at South Crofty (Western
United Mines), St. Columb (Treliver Minerals Ltd.) and
Redmoor (New Age Exploration Ltd.). Despite the rich
history of geological research in the region and current
activities, there has been little research into the
distribution of critical metals in the region.
There have been limited studies on the partitioning of
the critical metals into the common silicate minerals.
Sb, In and W in particular are elements that are poorly
represented in partitioning studies, and there is very
little information in the literature on how they become
concentrated in the crust. This paper presents data for
the abundance of critical metals in biotite and topaz
granites of SW England and the major minerals in
biotite granite and discusses a possible source of indium
for the biotite granites.
A total of 70 samples have been collected to encompass
the various granite types and other significant rock types
present in SW England (e.g. lamprophyres,
metasedimentary rocks). These samples have had the
weathered edges removed, been crushed and ground
using an agate barrel. For whole rock analysis, samples
were analysed by an Agilent 7700 ICP-MS using the 4-
acid digestion technique of Garbe-Schönberg (1993).
Sample duplicates and standards were analysed with
each sample batch. For metal distribution studies,
individual minerals were handpicked from crushed
material, washed and powdered using a mortar and
pestle before 4-acid digestion and analysis by ICP-MS.
2 Study Area
2.1 Location and regional geology
The polymetallic mining district of SW England extends
through the county of Cornwall into West Devon (Figure
1). The Early Permian Cornubian Batholith is exposed
as a series of major plutons including, from west to east,
the Isles of Scilly, Land’s End, Tregonning-Godolphin,
Carnmenellis, St. Austell, Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor
granites. The batholith was emplaced into Devonian and
Lower Carboniferous sedimentary and volcanic rocks
that underwent low-grade regional metamorphism and
deformation during the Variscan Orogeny. Magmatic
activity spanned approximately 25 Ma with the earliest
granite pluton dated at ~293 Ma and the youngest at 268
Ma (e.g., Chen et al. 1993; Chesley et al. 1993). Coeval
basaltic magmatism is represented by basaltic lavas and
The region had several stages of mineralisation but
the most widespread synbatholith polymetallic “lode”
systems formed during variable mixing of S-bearing
magmatic, meteoric and metamorphic fluids (Jackson et
al. 1989). Establishing the distribution of critical metals
in the granites themselves will aid understanding of
where these metals are likely to be concentrated within
the mineralisation systems.
Figure 1. Map showing the study area summarising different granite types. Major plutons are marked: DT – Dartmoor, BD –
Bodmin, SA – St. Austell, CN – Carnmenellis, TG – Tregonning-Godolphin, LE – Land’s End and IOS – Isles of Scilly. Map
modified after Manning et al. (1996) and Dangerfield & Hawkes (1981).
2.2 Granite characteristics
The granites are peraluminous with A/CNK values of
>1.1, relatively low Na2O (<3.2%) and restricted range
of SiO2 compositions. The batholith is enriched in As,
B, F, Li, P, Sn and Zn amongst other elements, and
contains ilmenite as the main ferrous phase (Chappell &
Hine, 2006). Major element data from this study are in
agreement with previous studies.
The granites can be subdivided by mineralogy into
biotite, topaz and tourmaline granites with biotite
granites accounting for over 90% of the upper parts of
the batholith. These mineralogical classifications can be
further refined texturally by variations in groundmass
grain-size and varying abundance / size of alkali feldspar
phenocrysts. The main granite types are accompanied by
later stage aplites, quartz porphyry dykes and quartz-
Figure 2. Chondrite normalised REE diagram showing the
differences between the biotite and topaz granites. Chondrite
values are from McDonough & Sun (1995).
The source of the granites has long been a subject of
debate with various authors arguing for and against a
mantle contribution. REE plots for biotite granite are
consistent with a crustal source, showing strongly
enriched LREE whereas the plots for topaz granites are
largely flat with lower total REE. A negative Eu
anomaly occurs in both granite types (Figure 2).
3. Critical metal distribution and source
3.1 Whole rock geochemistry
Whole rock samples were analysed by ICP-MS for Li,
Be, Ga, Ge, Nb, In, Sn, Sb, Ta, W and Bi. The results
(Table 1) define two distinct mineral groups that are
significant for different granite types. Overall Be, Ge,
In and Sn are more strongly enriched within the biotite
granites, while Li, Ga, Nb, Sb, Ta, W and Bi are more
enriched in the topaz granites.
Table 1. Table summarising the average abundances (ppm) of
critical metals in SW England biotite and topaz granites
compared to the average continental crustal abundances (Taylor
& McLennan, 1985).
45 km SW
La Ce Pr Nd Sm Eu Gd Dy Ho Er Tm Yb Lu
Sample / Chondrite
Biotite Granite Topaz Granite
3.2 Indium fractionation and source
Trace element modelling can aid in the determination of
the possible source for critical metals within the biotite
granites. Four samples of the Porthscatho Formation
(Darbyshire & Shepherd, 1994), a metasedimentary rock
into which the granites intruded, have also been analysed
for a selection of metals using ICP-MS. These samples
have been used as a bulk compositional analogue for a
lower crustal granite source. Although derived from the
upper plate during the final stages of Variscan
convergence, their peri-Gondwanan Mid-Proterozoic
basement source is likely to be similar to SW England
lower crust and both these samples and granites have
similar TDM model ages (Shail & Leveridge, 2009).
Trace element modelling followed the method by
Williamson et al. (2010) with equations for batch
melting and Rayleigh fractionation. For the purpose of
this exercise, all metals have been assumed to be
completely incompatible with partition coefficients of 0.
Consistent with Williamson et al. (2010), 30% and 50%
partial melting with 10% and 50% fractionation have
been modelled for each metal.
For In, combining 30% partial melting of Portscatho
Formation sandstones with 10% and 50% crystal
fractionation is sufficient to produce a range of In
concentrations that account for the majority of
concentrations of In in the granites (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Modelled In concentrations expected in granites for
different degrees of partial melting (M) and crystal
fractionation (F). In contents of all biotite granites in this
study (n=43) are also shown along with the average Portscatho
Formation (PSF) In content (n=4).
Using a source value of 0.41 ppm In, the average
value obtained in the analysis of the Portscatho
Formation, partial melting of 30% and fractionation of
<10% up to 50% is sufficient to obtain the range of In
values observed in the granites. This implies that there
is no need for a mantle contribution of material, at least
in the biotite granites, as the source can provide enough
material to account for the granite values. The same
model also accounts for the range of Be, Ga, Ge, Nb, Sn,
Sb, Ta and Bi within the biotite granites.
The topaz granites cannot be modelled using the
above method and it is believed that there are different
controls on the enrichment of these metals in the
granites. With the flat REE profile for these granites, as
shown above, it may be possible there is a mantle
component process in these granites or there could be
another fractionation process that is not yet understood.
3.3 Metal concentrations in silicate minerals
The major minerals found in biotite granite have been
analysed for their critical metal content. Abundances are
summarised in Table 2.
Table 2. Table summarising metal abundances (ppm) in major
minerals of biotite granite. Qtz = Quartz; Kfs = Alkali
Feldspar; Pl = Plagioclase; Bt = Biotite; Ms = Muscovite.
The micas appear to be the major carriers of critical
metals. This can be explained by their similar ionic
charge and radius to other elements that are major
constituents in micas. For example, the ionic radius of
Mg2+ (0.86Å) is closely matched by Ge2+ (0.87Å), while
In3+ (0.94Å) is only moderately larger. Substitution of
the critical metals into the mica lattice appears to be a
likely mineralogical control on the metal fractionation
within the biotite granites.
Several critical metals are enriched relative to average
continental crust, in the biotite and topaz granites of SW
England. The metals can be broadly subdivided into two
groups that help to outline the potentially fertile granite
stocks that would be prospective for particular metals.
Indium deposits would be expected (along with Ge and
Sn) to be preferentially associated with the biotite
granites, while Li, Ga, Nb, Sb, Ta and W would be
expected to be associated with the topaz granites.
The source of the indium enrichment in biotite
granites can be explained by partial melting of a
metasedimentary host rock (similar to the Portscatho
Formation) without any mantle involvement. The limited
mantle contribution to the biotite granites is supported by
isotope data (Darbyshire & Shepherd, 1985) as well as
REE patterns. There are other controls on concentration
of metals in the topaz granites.
The micas (biotite and muscovite) are the likely
major hosts for many of the critical metals. This is in
agreement with their ionic radii and charges, which make
them compatible with other metals usually contained
within these minerals.
0 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08
Modelled In in granite (ppm)
In in source (ppm)
Analytical support from Sharon Uren and Steve Pendray
of Camborne School of Mines, Cornwall is gratefully
acknowledged. This study is part of a PhD project
funded by the European Social Fund.
Chappell BW, Hine R (2006) The Cornubian Batholith: an example
of magmatic fractionation on a crustal scale. Res Geol 56:203-
Chen Y, Clark AH, Farrar E, Wasteneys HAP, Hodgson MJ,
Bromley AV (1993) Dichronous and independent histories of
plutonism and mineralisation in the Cornubian batholith,
southwest England. J Geol Soc London 150:1183-1191
Chesley JT, Halliday AN, Snee LW, Mezger K, Shepherd TJ,
Scrivener RC (1993) Thermochronology of the Cornubian
Batholith in southwest England: implications for pluton
emplacement and protracted hydrothermal mineralisation.
Geochim Cosmochim Acta 57:1817-1835
Dangerfield J, Hawkes, JR (1981) The Variscan Granites of south-
west England: additional information. Proc Ussher Soc 5:116-
Darbyshire DPF, Shepherd TJ (1994) Nr and Sr isotope constraints
on the origin of the Cornubian batholith, SW England. J Geol
Soc London 151:795-802
Garbe-Schönberg C (1993) Simultaneous determination of thirty-
seven trace elements in twenty-eight international rock
standards by ICP-MS. Geostand News 17:81-97
Jackson NJ, Willis-Richards J, Manning DAC, Sams MS (1989)
Evolution of the Cornubian ore field, southwest England: Part
II. Mineral deposits and ore-forming processes. Econ Geol
Manning DAC, Hill PI, Howe JH (1996) Primary lithological
variation in the kaolinised St. Austell Granite, Cornwall,
England. J Geol Soc London 153:827-838
McDonough WF, Sun, S (1995) The composition of the Earth.
Chem Geol 120:223-253
Shail RK, Leveridge BE (2009) The Rhenohercynian margin of
SW England: Development, inversion and extensional
reactivation. C R Geoscience 341:140-155
Taylor SR, McLennan SM (1985) The continental crust: its
composition and evolution. Blackwell Scientific Publications,
Williamson BJ, Müller A, Shail RK (2010) Source and partitioning
of B and Sn in the Cornubian batholith of southwest England.
Ore Geol Rev 38:1-8