Cobalt ores in the Asturias (Spain) – Providing key raw materials for the future of electric vehicles

CASE award with Aurum exploration services (SOLFERINO_RH20ARIES)

Cobalt ores in the Asturias (Spain) – Providing key raw materials for the future of electric vehicles

CASE award with Aurum exploration services (SOLFERINO_RH20ARIES)

Project Description


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.

Research methodology

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 (, and quantify ore resources under the direction of Aurum (

Person specification

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.


  • Paniagua, A., Loredo, J., García-Iglesias, J. (1988) ‘Epithermal (Cu–Co–Ni) mineralization in the Aramo mine (Cantbrian mountains, Spain): correlation between paragenetic and fluid inclusion data’. Bull. Mineral., vol. 111, pg. 383-391.
  • Kissin, S. A. (1992) ‘Five-element (Ni-Co-As-Ag-Bi) Veins’. Geoscience Canada, vol. 19, pg. 113-124.
  • Solferino, G., Anderson, A.J. (2012) 'Thermal reduction of Molybdite in water and Hydrogen Peroxide bearing solutions. Insights on redox conditions in Hydrothermal Diamond Anvil Cell (HDAC) experiments’. Chemical Geology, vol. 322-323, pg. 215-222.
  • Soleille, S., Kong, M., Planchon, M., Saidi, N., Devauze, C., Petarvratzi, E., Gunn, G., Brown, T., Shaw, R., Lefebvre, G., Le Gleuher, M., Rietveld, E., de Jong, j., Nijiand, T. and Bastien, T. (2018). Study on the review of the list of critical raw materials: final report. [online] Available at:
  • Moroni, M., Rossetti, P., Naitza, S., Magnani, L., Ruggieri, G., Aquino, A., Tartarotti, P., Franklin, A., Ferrari, E., Castelli, D., Oggiano, G., Secchi, F. (2019) Factors Controlling Hydrothermal Nickel and Cobalt Mineralization—Some Suggestions from Historical Ore Deposits in Italy. Minerals, vol. 9, article number 429.

Key Information

  • This project has been shortlisted for funding by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership, and will involve attendance at mandatory training events throughout the course of the PhD.
  • Successful candidates who meet UKRI’s eligibility criteria will be awarded a NERC studentship - UK and EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 3 years are eligible for a full award.
  • Excellent applicants from quantitative disciplines with limited experience in environmental sciences may be considered for an additional 3-month stipend to take advanced-level courses in the subject area (see
  • This studentship will start on 1st October 2020, and the closing date for applications is 23:59 on 15th January 2020.
  • Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed on 18/19 February 2020.
  • For further information, please contact the supervisor.
  • Please note that the joint NERC-ESRC ARIES-SeNSS studentship projects have different deadlines and funding arrangements. For full details please visit, or contact

Studentship Open for Applications

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