Prof David Holwell

Professor of Sustainable Mineral Resources

School/Department: Centre for Sustainable Resource Extraction

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 3804



ResearchGate profile:


I am an economic geologist with experience working in and alongside the minerals industry around the world. I have a BSc (Hons) from Durham University an MSc in Mining Geology from the Camborne School of Mines and a PhD from Cardiff University. I have worked as a consultant for SRK Exploration Services on projects that cover a range of commodities across the globe. I joined the University of Leicester in 2009 and been part of the Centre for Sustainable Resource Extraction applying research to exploration mining and recovery projects with the goal of lowering the energy environmental and financial footprints of mineral operations in the drive to a low carbon future.

Much of my research and teaching is in collaboration with the minerals industry, and have ongoing research programs with BHP, Anglo American, First Quantum Minerals, Ero Copper; and teaching partnerships with Micromine.


Research areas include the nature and genesis of precious metal deposits including magmatic nickel-copper-platinum group element and hydrothermal gold ores and the geological concentration extraction and processing of selenium and tellurium for the photovoltaics industry. This includes industry collaboration on Masters and PhD research projects. Specialism in applied research to tackle industry problems in the minerals sector through collaboration with industry partners from small exploration juniors through to the major mining houses.

See the 'Awards' tab for details on current and past research grants


  • Holwell DA, Fiorentini ML, Knott TR, McDonald I, Blanks DE, McCuaig TC, Gorczyk W. 2022. Mobilisation of deep crustal sulfide melts as a first order control on upper lithospheric metallogeny. Nature Communications, 13, 573,
  • Blanks, D.E., Holwell, D.A., Barnes, S.J., Schoneveld, L.E., Fiorentini, M.L., Baublys, K.A., Mbiri, L. & Knott, T.R.
    Mobilization and Fractionation of Magmatic Sulfide: Emplacement and Deformation of the Munali Ni-(Cu-Platinum Group Element) Deposit, Zambia, Economic Geology (2022)
  • Chong J, Fiorentini M, Holwell DA, Moroni M, Blanks DE, Dering G, Ferrari E. 2021. Magmatic cannibalisation of a Permo-Triassic Ni-Cu-PGE-(Au-Te) system during the breakup of Pangea - implications for craton margin metal and volatile transfer in the lower crust. Lithos, 388-389 doi:10.1016/j.lithos.2021.106079
  • Keays RR, Holwell DA, Prichard HM. 2021. Platinum mineralisation in the Owendale Uralian-Alaskan-type complex, New South Wales, Australia: The effects of serpentinization on Cu-PGE-Ni sulphides. Ore Geology Reviews. DOI: 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2020.103928
  • Holwell DA, Blanks DE. 2021. Emplacement of magmatic Cu-Au-Te(-Ni-PGE) sulfide blebs in alkaline mafic rocks of the Mordor Complex, Northern Territory, Australia. Mineralium Deposita,
  • Blanks DE, Holwell DA, Fiorentini ML, Moroni M, Giuliani A, Tassara S, González-Jiménez J-M, Boyce AJ, Ferrari E. 2020. Fluxing of mantle carbon as a physical agent for metallogenic fertilisation of the crust. Nature Communications, 11, 4342,
  • Keith M, Smith DJ, Doyle K, Holwell DA, Jenkin GRT, Barry TL, Becker J, Rampe J. 2020. Pyrite chemistry: a new window into Au-Te ore-forming processes in alkaline epithermal districts, Cripple Creek, Colorado. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 274, 172-191
  • Josso P, Rushton J, Lusty P, Matthews A, Chenery S, Holwell DA, Kemp SJ, Murton B. 2020. Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic paleoceanography from north-east Atlantic ferromanganese crust microstratigraphy. Marine Geology, 422
  • Holwell DA, Fiorentini M, McDonald I, Lu Y, Giuliani A, Smith DJ, Keith M, Locmelis M. 2019. A metasomatized lithospheric mantle control on the metallogenic signature of post-subduction magmatism. Nature Communications 10, 3511,
  • Ward LA, Holwell DA, Barry TL, Blanks DE, Graham SD (2018) The use of magnetite as a geochemical indicator in the exploration for magmatic Ni-Cu-PGE sulfide deposits: a case study from Munali, Zambia. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 188, 172–184
  • Bubeck A, Walker RJ, Imber J, Holdsworth RE, MacLeod CJ, Holwell DA. 2017. Rift zone-parallel extension during segmented fault growth: application to the evolution of the NE Atlantic. Solid Earth. 8, 1161–1180
  • Holwell DA, Adeyemi Z. Ward LA, Smith DJ, Graham SD, McDonald I, Smith JW. 2017. Low temperature alteration of magmatic Ni-Cu-PGE sulfides as a source for hydrothermal Ni and PGE ores: a quantitative approach using automated mineralogy. Ore Geology Reviews, 91, 718-740
  • Keith M, Smith DJ, Jenkin GRT, Holwell DA, Dye M. 2018. A review of Te and Se systematics in hydrothermal pyrite from precious metal deposits: insights into ore-forming processes. Ore Geology Reviews. 96, 269-282
  • Barnes SJ, Holwell DA, Le Vaillant M. 2017. Magmatic sulfide ore deposits. Elements, 13, 91-97
  • Holwell DA, Michell CL, Howe GA, Evans DM, Ward LA, Friedman R. 2017. The Munali Ni sulfide deposit, southern Zambia: A multi-stage, mafic-ultramafic, magmatic sulfide-magnetite-apatite-carbonate megabreccia. Ore Geology Reviews. 90, 553-575
  • Barnes SJ, Mungall JE, Le Vaillant M, Godel B, Lesher CM. Holwell DA, Lightfoot PC, Krivolutskaya NA, Wei B. 2017. Sulfide-silicate textures in magmatic Ni-Cu-PGE sulfide ore deposits: Disseminated and net-textured ores. American Mineralogist, 102, 473-506.
  • McDonald I, Harmer, RE, Holwell DA, Hughes HSR, Boyce AJ. 2017 Cu-Ni-PGE mineralisation at the Aurora Project and potential for a new PGE province in the Northern Bushveld Main Zone. Ore Geology Reviews, 80, 1135–1159.
  • Graham SD, Holwell DA, McDonald I, Jenkin GRT, Hill NJ, Boyce AJ, Smith J and Sangster C. 2017. Magmatic Cu-Ni-PGE-Au sulfide mineralisation in alkaline igneous systems: An example from the Sron Garbh intrusion, Tyndrum, Scotland. Ore Geology Reviews, 80, 961-984.
  • Bubeck A, Walker RJ, Healy D, Dobbs M, Holwell DA. 2017. Pore geometry as a control on rock strength. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 457, 38-48.
  • Holwell DA, Barnes SJ, Le Vaillant M, Keays RR, Fisher L and Prasser, R. 2016. 3D textural evidence for the formation of ultra-high tenor precious metal bearing sulfide microdroplets in offset reefs: an extreme example from the Platinova Reef, Skaergaard Intrusion, Greenland. Lithos, 256-7, 55-74
  • Smith JW, Holwell DA, McDonald I, Boyce AJ. 2016. The application of S isotopes and S/Se ratios in determining ore-forming processes of magmatic Ni-Cu-PGE sulfide deposits: a cautionary case study from the northern Bushveld Complex. Ore Geology Reviews, 73, 148–174
  • Hughes HSR, McDonald I, Boyce AJ, Holwell DA, Kerr AC. 2016. Sulphide sinking in magma conduits: evidence from mafic-ultramafic plugs on Rum and the wider North Atlantic Igneous Province. Journal of Petrology, 57, 383–416
  • Holwell DA, Keays RR, McDonald I and Williams MR. 2015. Extreme enrichment of Se, Te, PGE and Au in Cu sulfide microdroplets: evidence from LA-ICP-MS analysis of sulfides in the Skaergaard Intrusion, east Greenland. Contribution to Mineralogy and Petrology, 170, 53
  • Jenkin GRT, Al-Bassam AZM, Harris, RC, Abbott, AP, Smith DJ, Holwell DA, Chapman RJ and Stanley CJ. 2015. The application of deep eutectic solvent ionic liquids for environmentally friendly dissolution and recovery of precious metals. Minerals Engineering, 87, 18-24
  • Hughes, HSR, Boyce, AJ, McDonald, I, Davidheiser-Kroll, B, Holwell, DA, McDonald, A and Oldroyd, A. 2015. Contrasting mechanisms for crustal sulfur contamination in the British Palaeogene Igneous Province: evidence from dyke and sill complexes on Skye. Journal of the Geological Society, London. 172, 443-458
  • Williams MR, Holwell DA, Lilly RM, Case GND, McDonald I. 2015. Mineralogical and fluid characteristics of the fluorite-rich Monakoff and E1 Cu-Au deposits, Cloncurry region, Queensland, Australia: implications for regional F-Ba-rich IOCG mineralisation. Ore Geology Reviews, 64, 103-127.
  • Firth, EA, Holwell DA, Oliver NHS, Mortensen JK, Rovardi MP, Boyce AJ. 2015. Constraints on the development of orogenic style gold mineralisation at Mineral de Talca, Coastal Range, central Chile: evidence from a combined structural, mineralogical, S and Pb isotope and geochronological study. Mineralium Deposita, 50, 675-696.


Please contact me for information about research degrees, postdoctoral opportunities and international exchange/visits relating to magmatic sulfide deposits: mineralogy, geochemistry and field relations


Current supervision of PhD researchers:

Kate Canham

Erin Thompson

George Stonadge

Jess Berry


GL1104 Natural Resources and the Environment
GL2100 Geological Field Methods, including field course to Anglesey
GL3109 Mineral Exploration and Evaluation, including Micromine collaboration
GL3110 Advanced Mineral Deposits

Press and media

Please contact me for opinions and insight on battery metals, nickel, copper, platinum-group elements, tellurium


  • BHP. 2021. Consortium grant as PI of £500,000 "Craton Margin Exploration Targeting - 4D (CMET-4D)"
  • Ero Copper. Pilot study as PI of £28,000 "The Curaca Valley Copper Depsoits"
  • NERC. 2019. Highlight Topic grant as Co-I of £2,000,000 “CuBES: Copper in Basins Exploration Science”
  • Anglo American. 2019. Consortium grant as Leicester PI of £1,200,000 “Northern Limb 4D”
  • NERC. 2017. Highlight Topic grant as Co-I of £2,000,000 “FAMOS: From Arc Magmas to OreS”
  • Consolidated Nickel Mines and University of Leicester. 2016. Research grant in support of a PhD studentship (Daryl Blanks) of £69,549 as PI: “Developing a model for the emplacement of magmatic sulphide megabreccias in the Zambezi Supracrustal Sequence”
  • NERC. 2015. Consortium grant as Co-PI of £2,400,000 under the Security of Supply (SoS) of Critical Metals call. “Tellurium and Selenium Cycling and Supply”
  • NERC. 2015. Consortium grant as Co-I of £2,000,000 under the SoS of Critical Metals call. “Marine ferromanganese deposits-a major resource of E-tech elements (MarineE-tech)”
  • Consolidated Nickel Mines. 2015. Research grant of £10,000 as PI: “Developing further resources of Ni sulfide mineralisation around the Munali deposit, Zambia”
  • NERC. 2013. Catalyst grant of £91,000 under the Security of Supply of Critical Metals call. “Processes governing semi-metal PGE linkage in crustal magmatic systems: opportunites for discovery and recovery.”
  • March 2012. Orosur Mining. Characterisation and genesis of orogenic gold mineralisation at Mineral de Talca, Chile. £10,000
  • Wardell Armstrong Prize 2011, in association with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, for the best paper published in Transactions B: Applied Earth Science: McDonald, I., Holwell, D.A. and Wesley, B. 2009. Assessing the potential involvement of an early magma staging chamber in the generation of the Platreef Ni-Cu-PGE Deposit in the Northern Limb of the Bushveld Complex: a pilot study of the Lower Zone Complex at Zwartfontein. Applied Earth Science (Trans. IMM. B), 118, B5-20
  • December 2010. NERC Isotope Geoscience Facilities Steering Commitee. "The origin of precious metal-rich sulphide mineralisation in the Skaergaard intrusion and other Palaeogene igneous rocks of the Kangerlussuaq area, east Greenland" Grant in kind, £32,000
  • October 2009. Platina Resources Limited. Newly discovered precious and base metal mineralisation within the Kangerlussuaq region of East Greenland. PI. £10,000
  • SGA-Barrick Young Scientist Award for contributions to the understanding of mineral deposits. SGA 2009, Townsville, Australia, August 2009

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