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Professor Thomas Blenkinsop

Professor Thomas Blenkinsop

Professor in Earth Science

School of Earth and Ocean Sciences

+44 (0)29 2087 0232
2.22A, Main Building
Available for postgraduate supervision


Faults in the Earth's crust affect us daily in many ways. Apart from their role as the focus of earthquakes, in the past movement of fluids along faults has mineral deposts. I am interested in all aspects of how the crust deforms, mineral deposits, and plate tectonics.

  • Structural Geology
  • Hydrothermal mineral deposits
  • Faults, fluid flow, brecciation and granular flow
  • Surfaces processes and tectonics
  • Archean tectonics

Click here for my external web site for more details

  • Professor, Earth Sciences - School of Earth & Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, UK (2013 – present)
  • Senior Lecturer – Professor - School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University, Australia (2002-2013)
  • Director of the Economic Geology Research Unit- James Cook University, Australia (2011-2012)
  • Lecturer–Professor - University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe (1989-2002)
  • Principal Investigator - University of California, Santa Barbara, U.S.A. (1988-1989)
  • Research Assistant - Keele University, University of Liverpool. (1982-1987)
  • PhD - Keele University, (1982-1987
  • M.Sc. - Imperial College, London University (1981-1982)
  • B.A. - Oxford University (1976-1979)






































I teach structural geology at second, third and fourth year levels. Fieldwork and field based teaching are the best way to teach this subject, as demonstrated by feedback from generations of students. My classes go to the south Wales coast, to Arran and to North Spain.

The potential of drones to provide outstanding perspectives in the field is obvious, as well as generating lots of interest from a teaching point of view.

Measuring structures in drill core is a vital skill in the exploration industry: I am developing some teaching materials for this skill.

I am interested in deformation processes in the Earth at all scales, especially in the upper crust, and their relation to the formation of hydrothermal mineral deposits.

Fracturing, fluid flow, and brecciation are critical in these environments. I am also interested in the relationship between tectonics and surface processes in rifts and continental interiors. In several of these topics, techniques based on fractal geometry are important tools that I apply.

Granular flow is widespread in industrial processes such as pouring concrete, aswell as on and in the Earth, for example in avalanches, debris flows and along faults. Quite a sophisticated understanding of granular flow exists in the Physics and Engineering communities. We have only just started to apply these ideas to Earth science. One application is the possibility that magmatic ore deposits form by granular flows of crystals within intrusions.

Together with my colleague Prof. Owen Jones in Maths here at Cardiff, I am researching aspects of georesource utilisation and sustainability. What can the concept of peak inerals tell us about resource availability? Will we be able to find enough copper or the transition to a hydrocarbon free society in which electricity production and transport will become so important?

  • Mineral deposits
  • Structural Geology
  • Copper mineralization in Mount Isa, Australia
  • Archean Tectonics

Current supervision

Jennifer Ellis

Jennifer Ellis

Research student

Jamie Price

Jamie Price

Research student

Economic Impacts in Mineral Exploration and Mining

My ressearch in hydrothermal mineralization is highly relevant to the exploration and mining industry. Exploration can be directed more efficiently, and resources estimated more accurately, by understanding structural controls on mineralization. More efficient explration programs also benefit the environment.

The research has been carried out in Australia, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Russia, West Africa, and southern Africa, mainly through consultancies to mining companies including Anglogold Ashanti, Glencore, Highlands Paciifc, Kinross, Newmont Asia Pacific, Rio Tinto, Ozminerals, and Zimplats. Most of this work is concerned with hydrothermal gold and copper deposits, including lode gold, epithermal, VHMS deposit types. Anglogold Ashanti, Kinross and Newmont are three of the top ten gold mining companies in the world.

Exploration relies heavily in diamond drill core. I have been developing unified systems for analysing orientated drill core, paying special attention to linear features such as fold hinges and slickenlines which are vital but commonly ignored. These methods are outlined in a couple of papers and implemented in a spreadsheet for calculating structural orientations of planar and linear features from core measurements.

Blenkinsop, T., Doyle, M., Nugus, M., 2015. A unified approach to measuring structures in orientated drill core, in: Richards, F. L., Richardson, N. J., Rippington, S. J.,Wilson,R.W.&Bond, C. E. (Eds) Industrial Structural Geology: Principles, Techniques and Integration. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 421, Http://Dx.Doi.Org/10.1144/SP421.1. doi:10.1144/SP421.1

Blenkinsop, T.G. and Doyle, M.  2010. A method for determining the orientation of planar features in cut core. Journal of Structural Geology 32, 741-745.

Profession Practice Impacts - Training

Teaching courses on structural geology for exploration and mining has been a signficant part of these industry relationships. Structural geology is a rapdly advancing discipline, and many of the latest ideas have important ramifications for exploration, which are built into these courses. Practical and field components are essential parts of the courses.

In March 2020, a new MOOC from Cardiff University "Structural Geology for Exploration and Mining" will take some of these ideas to a wider audience.

The final stages of a textbook are in preparation, which will be a new look at structural geology at an intermediate to advanced undergraduate/postgraduate level, with coathors Steve Wojtal adnd Basil Tikoff.