Dr Giulio Solferino, Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London (RHUL)
Dr Dave Lowry, Department of Earth Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London
Dr Marilena Moroni, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Milan
Cobalt is critical for manufacturing of EV batteries; however, it is in seriously short supply. It is imperative to find cobalt ores in areas of social and political stability. An exceptional potential resource exists in the Asturias (Spain) where local government and the EU support mining prospection. To estimate these resources, we need to understand the geological triggers that formed them. Localities in Asturias, labelled by Paniagua as ‘epigenetic hydrothermal veins’, and others in the Caledonide, Variscan and Alpine orogenic belts, are often designated as “five-element type” veins (Ni-Co-As-Ag-Bi). In the 80s these were linked to shallow-magmatic intrusions and metasomatic alteration (epithermal ores). It is now accepted that this model is not plausible, although robust explanations of the mineralising process are lacking. A combination of a tectonic framework study, determination of key structural-stratigraphic controls, purpose-designed mineralogical characterization, physic-chemical modelling of fluids (e.g. thermal reduction/oxidation of dissolved metals) and mining prospection methods is required to explain the genesis of cobalt-bearing hydrothermal veins and altered breccia envelope systems, necessary to respond to an urgent societal need in Europe.
This project combines detailed research on geological history of the target areas (structural-stratigraphic synthesis), expert-guided field-work, fluid petrology (fluid inclusion studies) and geochemical analysis (stable isotope determination). Ore body modelling will reveal the mechanism of ‘hydrothermal cobalt vein’ genesis and quantify the resources of a series of genetically-related mineralisations.
The student will carry out fieldwork guided by prospection experts from Aurum Exploration Services. They will receive training in mineral identification using microscopy, fluid inclusion data collection and processing, energy and wavelength dispersive spectroscopy (EDS, WDS) and stable isotope data interpretation. They will learn to reconstruct physic-chemical conditions of mineral formation mentored by a scientist of Milan University (https://www.unimi.it/en/ugov/person/marilena-moroni), and quantify ore resources under the direction of Aurum (https://www.aurumexploration.com/saint-patrick-asturias-spain-dolomite-breccia-hosted-cobalt/).
The project requires a Geology/Earth Sciences graduate. Knowledge of ore minerals is essential. Familiarity with software for ore resources estimation and/or analytical geochemistry is desirable but not essential as those are part of the specialist skills training offered with this project.