12 July 2024
Green metals finding: Mantle melts transport critical metals

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The Discovery of Green Metals in Carbonate Melts

In a groundbreaking study led by Macquarie University, researchers have uncovered new insights into the transportation of valuable ‘green’ metals from deep within the Earth’s mantle. These findings, recently published in the journal Science Advances, have the potential to revolutionize the search for critical raw materials essential for renewable energy technologies. Dr. Isra Ezad, the lead researcher of the international team, conducted high-pressure and high-temperature experiments to simulate conditions akin to those found at approximately 90 kilometers below the Earth’s surface. The results of these experiments have revealed the ability of carbonate melts to dissolve and carry a diverse range of metals and compounds from the mantle, offering valuable information for future metal prospecting efforts.

Understanding the Role of Carbonate Melts in Metal Transport

Traditionally, the majority of rocks in the Earth’s crust and mantle are silicate-based, similar to the lava emitted from volcanoes. However, a small fraction of these deep-seated rocks contain traces of carbon and water, causing them to melt at lower temperatures than their counterparts. These carbonate melts have been shown to effectively dissolve and transport base metals such as nickel, copper, and cobalt, as well as precious metals like gold and silver, along with oxidized sulfur. This process of metal dissolution by carbonate melts provides a pathway for concentrating these valuable ‘green’ metals into potential deposits.

Implications for Mineral Exploration and Metal Deposits

The researchers utilized natural mantle compositions from regions in Uganda and Cameroon to study the behavior of carbonate melts in metal mobilization. Dr. Ezad’s team discovered that thicker continental crust regions, particularly in older inland areas of continents, can serve as reservoirs for carbon and water. This phenomenon leads to the formation of carbon-sulfur melts that have the capability to concentrate metals within specific mantle regions, subsequently moving them towards shallower depths in the Earth’s crust. By tracking carbonate melts, scientists can gain insights into the large-scale redistribution of metals and the formation of ore deposits throughout Earth’s history.

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Addressing the Growing Demand for Critical Metals

As the world transitions towards renewable energy sources like battery, wind, and solar technologies, the demand for essential metals is on the rise. Dr. Ezad emphasizes that the discovery of metal deposits from carbonate melts provides a new avenue for mineral exploration, offering a previously untapped resource for base and precious metals. This research not only sheds light on the mechanisms of metal mobilization within the Earth’s interior but also presents a promising solution to the increasing challenges of sourcing these critical raw materials in a sustainable manner. By leveraging the knowledge gained from this study, researchers and industry professionals can work towards securing a stable supply of ‘green’ metals essential for building a sustainable future.

Links to additional Resources:

1. Macquarie University 2. Nature 3. ScienceDirect

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Green Metals, Carbonate Melts, Metal Mobilization

Green metals
Green metals is a term used to describe a set of metals that are utilized in clean energy applications and can help achieve net zero emissions targets. These metals include copper, nickel, silver, zinc, cobalt, neodymium, graphite, lithium, manganese, and molybdenum.
Read more: Green metals

Sodium carbonate
Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda, soda ash and soda crystals) is the inorganic compound with the formula Na2CO3 and its various hydrates. All forms are white, odourless, water-soluble salts that yield alkaline solutions in water. Historically, it was extracted from the ashes of plants grown in sodium-rich soils,...
Read more: Sodium carbonate

Acid mine drainage
Acid mine drainage, acid and metalliferous drainage (AMD), or acid rock drainage (ARD) is the outflow of acidic water from metal mines and coal mines. Acid rock drainage occurs naturally within some environments as part of the rock weathering process but is exacerbated by large-scale earth disturbances characteristic of mining...
Read more: Acid mine drainage

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