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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Defining the formation of strategic metals

(26 October 2018)

The Central African metallogenic belt, which straddles the border between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a critical province not only for copper (Cu) but also cobalt (Co). The latter, which enables batteries to stock energy without overheating, is a global strategic metal for the technological revolution which is mandatory to face and remediate the challenges of climate change.

A critical aspect of mineral exploration is based on the possibility to rely on a robust genetic model which explains how those Cu-Co deposits formed in the Earth history.

A genetic model explains how those Cu-Co deposits formed in the Earth history and describes the conjugated factors that concurred to the tremendous scale of this copper-cobalt Eldorado. The publication, entitled “Sulphide Re-Os geochronology links orogenesis, salt, and Cu-Co ores in the Central African Copperbelt“ by Saintilan and co-workers, was published in Scientific Reports on October 8 (DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-33399-7). This contribution describes how researchers from Durham University came to constrain this genetic model. They combined expertise in the mineralogy of Cu-Co-bearing sulphides and a meticulous work in one of the few worldwide state-of-the-art laboratories applying a geochronology method to directly date individual sulphide species. As such, they could gather the clues and decipher the mineralising processes that occurred between 610 and 470 million years ago to produce the giant Central African Copperbelt!