New sources of metals for the energy transition and high-tech society are required for the development of metal-intensive ‘green technologies’ and to support our growing energy infrastructure. Topic 8 research focusses on major commodities of strategic (e.g., Cu, Zn) and critical metals (e.g., Rare Earth Elements (REE), W, Co) that will drive the energy transition. Our research focuses on developing new mineral system models for resources that can make a substantive contribution to future global supply and raw material security. These models incorporate new physical-, chemical-, and thermal controls on metal sources, sinks and transport pathways, taking into account the regional space/time variations imposed by different geodynamic settings and placing new constraints on the processes that govern resource distribution. Of major interest are the following three broad groups of deposits:
Magmatic deposits related to mafic-ultramafic, alkalic-carbonatitic and felsic-pegmatitic intrusions provide much of the world’s Cr-Ni-PGE (platinum-group elements), REE, and Li-Nb-Ta supplies. To better constrain if an intrusion is barren or mineralized, research in ST8.2 focusses on processes that lead to the enrichment of metals in these systems. We combine geochemical/isotopic tracers of magma source and evolution with experiments that determine how metals behave during melting and crystallization.
Magmatic-hydrothermal deposits in subduction and collisional zones (e.g., Andean and Variscan belts) are major suppliers for Cu, Mo, Au, Ag, Sn, and W. Quantifying the processes of generation, emplacement, and degassing of fertile magmas in these systems and identifying the mechanisms of focused fluid flow and ore precipitation by physical and chemical fluid-rock interactions are key to guiding future exploration. Fundamental processes that are addressed include the importance of pre-enrichment in source areas for melt generation, the manner of volatile release from incrementally growing magmatic intrusions, and the role of fault structures in dynamic ore-forming hydrothermal systems.
Massive sulfide deposits in volcanic and sedimentary basins have the potential to host significant Cu, Zn, and Pb resources. Researchers in ST8.2 study the interactions of diagenetic and hydrothermal processes coupled to the 4D evolution of permeability and porosity that govern heat and fluid flow in volcanic and sedimentary systems. Other key aspects of our research are i) the role of biotic communities and organic material, ii) the sulfur cycle, iii) mobility of redox-sensitive metals.