Minerals

Sustainable supply of metals and minerals is key in providing the raw materials for all sorts of green technology from wind turbines to electric car batteries, motors and solar panels.

MINERALS

All kinds of green technologies, from wind turbines to electric car batteries, solar photo-voltaic panels, direct-drive motors in electric vehicles, low-energy lighting rely on the availability of metals such as copper, lead, iron, nickel, cobalt, zinc, lithium, and rare earth elements (REEs).  Some can be obtained as by-products of manufacturing processes, such as fertilizer and aluminium production, and others such as copper are already efficiently recycled.  Research that underpins efficient exploration and extraction is critical to ensure a sustainable supply of these materials to meet the increasing demand.

Leeds expertise in the formation of ore deposits allows us to characterise the chemical and mineralogical nature of earth materials and provides the platform to identify new resources and to optimise their recovery. We aim to help develop sustainable approaches to exploration and extraction of minerals relevant to a socially-just energy transition, working in collaboration with social scientists, stakeholders, and governments.

Recent research projects

Controls on Au metallogeny in the Appalachian-Caledonian Belt

Gold deposits within mountain belts are sources for precious metals (Au, Ag, Pt, Pd) and trace elements (e.g., Te). These gold deposits may be formed in different environments which control the presence and concentrations of accessory minerals. Gaining a full understanding of the various mechanisms by which mineralization takes place will enhance our exploration efficiency

This project investigates the variability of five gold-mineralised areas in Newfoundland, Ireland, and Scotland, particularly the relationships between mineralisation styles, metal alloy compositions, trace element content, and structural framework; whilst contributing to the exploration efforts of our industry partners. The work generates new understanding of deposition controls and what gold alloy compositions and trace elements tell us about crustal fluid pathways. Lead researcher: Dr Taija Torvela, Leeds Ores and Mineralisation Group.

Element mobility in evolving magmatic hydrothermal systems

Porphyry and associated epithermal mineralisation form in an evolving hydrothermal system within and surrounding an intrusion. Fractionation of major metals within the porphyry-epithermal transition is well known, but trace element behaviour is less well documented. Our current project on the Iron Cap deposit of the giant KSM Cu-Au porphyry, British Columbia, focusses on the trace elements distribution (e.g. Se, Sb, Te) to establish whether successive vein generations represent metal remobilisation or introduction. The outcomes have identified the mineralogical associations of trace elements, which has both illuminated ore genesis and provided valuable information for future metallurgical design and tailings disposal. Lead researcher: Dr Dan Morgan, Leeds Ores and Mineralisation Group.

Gold Atlas of British Columbia

This project funded by Geoscience BC is generating a publicly accessible database of gold compositions such that detrital gold particles may find use as deposit style- specific indicators Gold may be the major economic target of exploration, but it also occurs as a minor component in other styles of mineralization which are economic targets for a range of different commodities. Compositional templates based on analyses of over 15,000 gold particles from a range of deposit styles will permit future exploration programs globally to evaluate the nature of source mineralization at an early stage in the exploration process, particularly in regions where other geological information is limited. Lead researcher: Dr Rob Chapman, Leeds Ores and Mineralisation Group.

Mobility and concentration of 'Heavy' rare earth elements in natural systems

The SOS Rare project focuses on ‘Heavy’ rare earth elements (HREE – europium through to lutetium) and on neodymium (Nd), all of which are at highest risk of reduced supply. The principal aims of the project are to understand the mobility and concentration of Nd and HREE in natural systems and to investigate new processes that will lower the environmental impact of REE extraction and recovery. Lead researcher: Prof Bruce Yardley.

ULTRA - Ultramafic-hosted mineral Resource Assessment

Ultramafic-hosted seafloor massive sulphides in slow-spreading ridges form some of the largest deposits known, hosting high concentrations of metals and elements needed for new technologies, including Au, Cu, Ni, Co and Pt. This project aims to improve understanding of the size, mineralogy and metal tenors of these deposits, which is vital for making comparisons with the land-based supplies. Lead researcher: Dr Crispin Little, Palaeo@leeds.