The application of plate tectonic theory to the exploration of economically viable mineral and hydrocarbon deposits is a common approach in the field of economic geology. Plate tectonics has provided exploration geologists with a framework to which they can relate the specific environments and spatial relationships of economic deposits (Rona, 1977; Bierlein et al., 2002; Richards, 2003). Studies of this kind have increased as the search for small and covered deposits becomes progressively more important. This approach has led to a classification of economic deposits according to plate tectonic processes. Many of the observations that support this classification (listed below) are discussed by Mitchell & Garson (1976, 1981), Rona (1977), Tarling (1981), Hutchinson (1983), Sawkins (1984), and Evans (1987).
1 autochthonous deposits directly related to magmatism at plate margins and interiors;
2 allochthonous deposits related to plate margin magmatism;
3 deposits related to sedimentary basins formed by plate motions;
4 deposits related to climate and to changes in paleolatitude resulting from plate motions.
Whereas plate tectonic theory has been useful for understanding the origin and evolution of economically viable deposits, alternative approaches also have been employed, especially with regard to mineral deposits. One area of current research involves investigating the potential links among the formation of ore deposits, the evolution of large igneous provinces (LIPs, Section 7.4.1), and the effects of deep mantle plumes (Ernst et al., 2005). The formation of LIPs and the rise of deep mantle plumes may involve tectonic and mag-matic activities that operate independently of plate motions. In addition, the understanding of mineral deposits in Archean cratons is complicated by the possibility of unique geologic or tectonic process operating in the early Earth (Section 11.1). These differences require models that incorporate the unique aspects of Archean geology and tectonics (Herrington et al., 1997).
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