(CNRS: 322 k€)
Coordinateur : Shenghong Yang (University of UOULU, Finland)
University of Oulu, Cardiff University, Instituto Dom Luiz, CIÊNCIAS ULisboa, Czech Geological Survey, Polish Geological Institute, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Technische Universität Wien, Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden Rossendorf, SUPRACON Aktiengesellschaft, AARHUS GEOPHYSICS, University of Eastern Finland, Università degli Studi di Milano, Gaia Exploracion, Imperial College London, University of the Free State, MAGNUS MINERALS, GEOOPOOL, Xcalibur Multiphysics
Critical Raw Materials are fundamental to feed the EU industrial value chains and strategic sectors and the green energy transition. Currently, supply of primary Critical Raw Materials is <3% for many important commodities which leaves the EU in a vulnerable position depending mostly on imports from third countries. The EU aims to boost the internal production of Critical Raw Materials to secure its autonomy and ensure responsible sourcing of these raw materials. The European Commission published a list of 30 Critical Raw Materials in 2020, many of which are being hosted in orthomagmatic sulfide and oxide ore deposits, which are mineral deposits forming from mafic, mantle-derived magmas. Among these Critical Raw Materials, Platinum-group metals (PGM) are essential components in fuel cells; Cobalt (Co) and nickel (Ni) are important battery components; vanadium (V) is used in electricity storage facilities and steel production; titanium (Ti) is used in aeronautics. Others, have not yet reached criticality but are in a vulnerable stage such as Copper (Cu) fundamental in electric vehicles or chromium (Cr) which is essential in steel industry. All these metals are fundamental for the transition to the green economy, yet their future demand will exceed the current supply by more than 100% within a decade (European Commission, 2020). In the EU, there is currently only one orthomagmatic sulfide deposit (Kevitsa Ni-Cu-PGE-Co, Finland) and one orthomagmatic oxide deposit (Kemi Cr, Finland) in production. Similar, deposits yet uneconomic ore deposits have also been identified in other EU countries, such as Portugal, Spain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and EU associated countries, such as Norway.
Currently, the exploration industry mainly uses methods with some environmental impact and significant costs such as drilling of geophysical and geochemical anomalies to identify and delineate ore deposits. To reduce the amount of drilling the efficiency of the methods while improving the discovery rate it is necessary to improve the understanding of ore formation. The Minerals Systems Approach (e.g. Wyborn et al., 1994) differs from traditional exploration, since it understands the formation of ore deposits depends on the interplay of several critical geological components, namely the presence of a metal source, a fluid pathway and a metal sink. If an area lacks one of these components, an ore deposit cannot form. In theory, this allows distinguishing prospective from non-prospective areas. It has proven challenging to translate the three components of the mineral system approach into objective exploration criteria that can guide explorers at both the regional scale (so-called greenfield exploration) and the local/deposit scale (so-called brownfield exploration) (McCuaig et al., 2010).
Additional challenges for the exploration industry and governmental decision-makers in the EU include: raising social awareness on the need for raw materials and how they can be sourced in a responsible and sustainable way; the homogenisation of information on mineral resources and the form these resources are reported by different countries which makes data integration difficult.
The overarching goal of SEMACRET is to provide a clearer understanding of the EU’s mineral potential, and to develop sustainable (i.e. environmentally and socially friendly) exploration techniques for green transition (critical) raw materials hosted in orthomagmatic ore deposits. This also allows bridging the gap between academic research and the mineral exploration industry. The specific objectives are:
1-Generate improved ore models for orthomagmatic mineral deposits that can explain all the petrological features of known magmatic ore deposits in the EU (e.g., identify the key metal source, locate the pathway, and determine the processes controlling metal sink mechanism).
2-Apply the new ore models to design geochemical and geophysical vectors that can be applied at regional scale (greenfield) exploration to delineating high potential areas in the EU.
3-Apply the new vectors to generate drilling targets and delineate extensions to known magmatic ore bodies in the EU thereby enhancing the efficiency of local-scale (so-called brownfield) exploration.
4-Promote social awareness of the significance and responsible sourcing of raw materials in the EU.
5-Generate comprehensive maps of the exploration and production potential of key metals hosted by orthomagmatic ore deposits (Ni, PGE, V, Ti, Cr, Cu) in the EU and key third countries (e.g., Canada, South Africa, Australia, Zimbabwe), in line with UNFC and UNRMS standards.