Abstract The Panzhihua intrusion in southwest China is part of the Emeishan Large Igneous Province and host of a large Fe-Ti-V ore deposit. During emplacement of the main intrusion, multiple generations of mafic dykes invaded carbonate wall rocks, producing a large contact aureole. We measured the oxygen-isotope composition of the intrusions, their constituent minerals, and samples of the country rock. Magnetite and plagioclase from Panzhihua intrusion have δ18O values that are consistent with magmatic equilibrium, and formed from magmas with δ18O values that were 1–2‰ higher than expected in a mantle-derived magma. The unmetamorphosed country rock has high δ18O values, ranging from 13.2‰ (sandstone) to 24.6–28.6‰ (dolomite). The skarns and marbles from the aureole have lower δ18O and δ13C values than their protolith suggesting interaction with fluids that were in exchange equilibrium with the adjacent mafic magmas and especially the numerous mafic dykes that intruded the aureole. This would explain the alteration of δ18O of the dykes which have significantly higher values than expected for a mantle-derived magma. Depending on the exact δ18O values assumed for the magma and contaminant, the amount of assimilation required to produce the elevated δ18O value of the Panzhihua intrusion was between 8 and 13.7 wt.%, assuming simple mixing. The exact mechanism of contamination is unclear but may involve a combination of assimilation of bulk country rock, mixing with a melt of the country rock and exchange with CO2-rich fluid derived from decarbonation of the marls and dolomites. These mechanisms, particularly the latter, were probably involved in the formation of the Fe-Ti-V ores.