Abstract One hundred and sixty rock samples of iron ore deposits and their host rocks from the Divrigi iron ore region were analysed for ten major and 31 trace elements, and 30 samples were analysed for rare earth elements. Statistical analyses divide rock types into different units (discriminant analyses) and several element associations (cluster and factor analyses). Individual rock types were also treated statistically. Different element associations and the geochemistry of the REE point to a genetic relationship between ore and host rocks and later hydrothermal overprints. The interpretation suggests iron ores are closely associated with mafic ultramafic rocks. This exploration model has been applied iron ore deposits in central Anatolia, Turkey. The results stimulated first air-magnetic and later ground-magnetic field surveys leading to discovery of new iron ore occurrences which are currently being evaluated for their economic potential.