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Creu strategaethau newydd ar gyfer darganfod dyddodion mwynol magmatig

Researchers from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences discovered highly prospective exploration tracts and studied new magmatic ore deposits in countries across the world, leading to more efficient exploration that is less invasive to the environment than drilling.

Magmatic ore deposits contain metals crucial to industry and trade, particularly platinum group elements (PGE), as well as chromium (Cr), vanadium (V), nickel (Ni), and copper (Cu). Platinum group elements are used in auto catalysts, copper in electric infrastructure, and chromium, nickel and vanadium in the manufacture of steel and batteries.

Global energy requirements and climate targets will significantly influence future metal demand and supplies. Recent research into metals for a low carbon society shows that building the infrastructure required to underpin the green economy transition, including key areas of renewable energy production, storage and electric vehicles, will trigger a >100% increase in demand for many key metals over the next decades.

Researchers Professor Wolfgang Maier and Dr Iain McDonald of the Economic Geology and Geoscience Africa research groups worked with Ivanhoe Mines, Northern Shield Resources and the Geological Survey of Western Australia to create new techniques for exploring magmatic ore deposits. Their research has enabled more efficient exploration that is less invasive to the environment than drilling. It has also helped to identify high-value exploration sites and enable new ore discoveries, generating exploration cost savings of over £23M for global exploration companies.

Industrial impacts

Examples of the industrial impact of their work include characterising several new PGE deposits within the Bushveld Complex in South Africa - the largest ore belt on Earth. Their work with the Te and Se Cycling and Supply project led to a new model and findings that implied further exploration should target hydrodynamic traps in intrusions. The validity of the model was independently confirmed by Ivanhoe’s discovery of the ‘Flatreef’ deposit, found beneath existing mine operations and deposits in 2012, which led to a close collaboration between the Cardiff team and Ivanhoe in the form of several Master and PhD projects, a number of scientific publications, and numerous new ideas on the origin of PGE mineralisation.

Cardiff researchers developed the first detailed chemical and mineralogical characterisation and interpretation of the ore forming processes in the Musgrave and Albany Fraser magmatic ore deposit belts in Western Australia. Their work identified how long-lived mantle upwelling and relatively slow cooling rates created the Giles Complex, one of the world’s greatest clusters of layered intrusions which are rich in Ni, Cu, V and PGE. The research also explored the composition of mafic-ultramafic rocks to determine the magmatic sulphide ore potential of the Albany Fraser region. The Fraser zone’s potential as a significant new source for nickel, an essential metal in steel manufacturing and next generation high performance Ni batteries, was acknowledged following this research.

Together with Northern Shield, Professor Maier interpreted extensive geochemical data generated during exploration for Ni-Cu-PGE in the Labrador Trough, namely the Huckleberry property. Exploration of the area remained at a formative stage until our researchers designed an ore deposit model and proposed further drill targets based on geochemical vectors.

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