Minerals and Magmatism


The module begins with an investigation into the physical and chemical makeup of the primitive solar nebula the solar system, asteroids/meteorites and planets – with emphasis on Earth. Focus then moves onto the planet Earth where the major planetary reservoirs are examined. The discussion begins with the crystals and minerals that represent the “basic building blocks of rocks”. Time is spent learning about basic theory about crystallography and mineralogy. The properties of all classes of minerals (including structure and composition) are discussed so that mineral identification can be accomplished in hand specimen. However, particular reference is given to the main rock-forming mineral groups.

The module then moves on to the introduction of the petrological microscope whereby the principles of basic petrography are undertaken. This enables the rock-forming minerals to be studied in thin section. After the principles of petrography have been introduced the skill is developed throughout the rest of the module alongside the discussion of basic rock analytical techniques and igneous rock classification. This leads on to the introduction to metamorphism and magmatic processes with an emphasis on the larger impacts of volcanological hazards.

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding of the overall chemical composition and structure of the solar system and the Earth and the major processes regulating distribution of the elements;
  • Identify and describe the common types of igneous and metamorphic rocks and rock-forming minerals;
  • Understand how mineral properties are controlled by chemistry and structure;
  • Understand the origin and nature of igneous and metamorphic rocks from source region, to magma chambers to secondary deformational events;
  • Understand the application of geochemical principles to rock and mineral interpretation;
  • Be able to interpret magmatic processes through the use of simple phase diagrams;
  • Use the petrological microscope to identify common primary minerals in igneous and metamorphic rocks;
  • Understand how the use of major and trace elements and simple radiogenic isotopes can determine the petrogenesis of igneous and metamorphic rocks;
  • Understand the basic processes involved with magma generation, including geothermal gradients, potential temperatures, decompression and the role of volatiles;
  • Appreciate tectonomagmatic processes in several geological environments.


One 1.5 hr multiple choice question examination (January) (60% of the module);
One 2 hr practical in-class test (40% of the module).