Research Topic

Micro- to Nano-Analytical Challenges Towards Trace Element Characterization of Ore Minerals: New Perspectives and Applications for Sustainable Georesources

About this Research Topic

Ore minerals provide important insights into the complex interplay of magmatic, tectonic and hydrothermal processes that lead to the formation of mineral deposits. Besides their main economic constituents, ore minerals also contain trace elements that are valuable for modeling the space-time evolution of a mineralizing system, for dating ore minerals, and fingerprinting mechanisms of incorporation in and release from a host mineral. Many of these elements are considered as ‘critical’ due to their low supply relative to a growing demand caused by their specific application in electronics and renewable energies. The transition to a low-carbon society therefore requires a secure and steady supply of both the main and rare by-product commodities. Improved knowledge of trace element behavior during ore formation and throughout the mining process is crucial for building a sustainable future, which requires a detailed mineralogical and chemical characterization at the micro- and nano-scale.

The processes that control the enrichment and distribution of trace elements in ore-forming systems are still difficult to constrain due to low concentrations even in high-grade materials. However, recent advances in micro- and nano-analytical research show great potential to close these knowledge gaps. In-situ trace element analysis of ore-forming minerals has been established as a tool to constrain magmatic-hydrothermal enrichment and fractionation processes. Such data, if well understood may be used in exploration as a vectoring tool towards high-grade mineralization, or to constrain fluid sources or metallogenic trends in terranes with a protracted geological history. Besides forming discrete phases in high-grade ores, trace elements are also abundant in other ore-forming minerals, either as inclusions or lattice substitutions. However, the economic potential of ‘invisible’ trace elements is underestimated to date, but may significantly improve their recovery rates, if their deportment in minerals and products of the processing chain is understood. If not recovered, these elements may be mobilized into the environment, where they could have an eco-toxicological impact, and hence a better understanding of their occurrence in mining wastes and soils is required. New pathways that consider waste as a resource by re-introducing it into the processing chain may thus contribute towards a sustainable future.

This Research Topic welcomes contributions that utilize micro- and nano-analytical techniques (e.g., micro-CT, EPMA, LA-ICP-MS, SIMS, TEM, APT, XAS) to better understand the distribution of economically relevant elements in the Earth’s crust. This includes natural ore-forming systems, not restricted to a specific deposit-type or commodity, contributions that are based on experimental studies, as well as investigations on materials from the processing circuits and on tailings and other mining wastes. Contributions that present novel analytical techniques that expand on current state-of-the-art capabilities, and which provide new and critical insights into sustainable mining and processing are strongly encouraged for submission.


Keywords: trace elements, micro- and nano-analysis, ore formation, exploration and mining, environmental impact


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Ore minerals provide important insights into the complex interplay of magmatic, tectonic and hydrothermal processes that lead to the formation of mineral deposits. Besides their main economic constituents, ore minerals also contain trace elements that are valuable for modeling the space-time evolution of a mineralizing system, for dating ore minerals, and fingerprinting mechanisms of incorporation in and release from a host mineral. Many of these elements are considered as ‘critical’ due to their low supply relative to a growing demand caused by their specific application in electronics and renewable energies. The transition to a low-carbon society therefore requires a secure and steady supply of both the main and rare by-product commodities. Improved knowledge of trace element behavior during ore formation and throughout the mining process is crucial for building a sustainable future, which requires a detailed mineralogical and chemical characterization at the micro- and nano-scale.

The processes that control the enrichment and distribution of trace elements in ore-forming systems are still difficult to constrain due to low concentrations even in high-grade materials. However, recent advances in micro- and nano-analytical research show great potential to close these knowledge gaps. In-situ trace element analysis of ore-forming minerals has been established as a tool to constrain magmatic-hydrothermal enrichment and fractionation processes. Such data, if well understood may be used in exploration as a vectoring tool towards high-grade mineralization, or to constrain fluid sources or metallogenic trends in terranes with a protracted geological history. Besides forming discrete phases in high-grade ores, trace elements are also abundant in other ore-forming minerals, either as inclusions or lattice substitutions. However, the economic potential of ‘invisible’ trace elements is underestimated to date, but may significantly improve their recovery rates, if their deportment in minerals and products of the processing chain is understood. If not recovered, these elements may be mobilized into the environment, where they could have an eco-toxicological impact, and hence a better understanding of their occurrence in mining wastes and soils is required. New pathways that consider waste as a resource by re-introducing it into the processing chain may thus contribute towards a sustainable future.

This Research Topic welcomes contributions that utilize micro- and nano-analytical techniques (e.g., micro-CT, EPMA, LA-ICP-MS, SIMS, TEM, APT, XAS) to better understand the distribution of economically relevant elements in the Earth’s crust. This includes natural ore-forming systems, not restricted to a specific deposit-type or commodity, contributions that are based on experimental studies, as well as investigations on materials from the processing circuits and on tailings and other mining wastes. Contributions that present novel analytical techniques that expand on current state-of-the-art capabilities, and which provide new and critical insights into sustainable mining and processing are strongly encouraged for submission.


Keywords: trace elements, micro- and nano-analysis, ore formation, exploration and mining, environmental impact


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

11 October 2021 Abstract
09 March 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

11 October 2021 Abstract
09 March 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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