NERC GW4+ DTP PhD studentship: Platinum-group element (PGE) mineralisation potential of the Antrim Plateau magmatics, Northern Ireland

University of Exeter - College of Life and Environmental Science

Main supervisor: Dr Hannah S.R. Hughes (Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter)

The British Palaeogene Igneous Province (BPIP), one of the oldest portions of the North Atlantic Igneous Province (NAIP), has been highlighted as having the highest potential for Ni-Cu-PGE mineralisation in western Europe (Andersen et al., 2002). The Tellus geophysical and geochemical surveys (www.bgs.ac.uk/gsni/tellus/), have resulted in significant interest in the area from the mineral exploration industry. Lonmin have been exploring Northern Ireland for Ni-Cu-PGE since 2008. This has resulted in the accumulation and curation of a collection of cores representing 13,945m of Antrim Palaeogene basalt and Dalradian meta-sediments in 52 boreholes. This project represents a unique opportunity to study this new core material. Data from these cores coupled with surface samples and regional geochemistry and geophysics (Tellus) will improve our understanding of the magmatic plumbing of the region, the sulphide saturation history of the magmatic rocks (controlling orthomagmatic mineralisation) and regional trends in precious and base metals (controlled by mantle sources, crustal contamination, and upgrading in magmatic conduits).

While mineralisation analogous to a Norilâ sk-style conduit-hosted orthomagmatic sulphide deposit is anticipated in the region, reef-style PGE mineralisation may also be possible in contemporaneous intrusions. Indeed, sulphide-related PGE mineralisation in float boulders at the Carlingford Complex led to drilling in 1983 (Gerry Stanley, personal communication, 2003). Further, gold mineralisation within Dalradian stratigraphy below some of the plateau lavas may also influence the magmatic precious metal budget of the region. The Lonmin cores can be used to unpick the magmatic and mineralisation processes in this plume-controlled system, and have the potential to contribute to a clearer understanding of the tectonic and lithospheric terrane correlations of crustal rocks between Ireland and Scotland.

New bulk rock geochemistry for major, trace and Cu+Ni+Co+PGE+Au will be used to build for the first time a 3D geochemical stratigraphy of lavas (and conduits) for Antrim. This will be combined with in situ sulphide mineral analysis, using SEM, EPMA and LA-ICP-MS techniques to ascertain the provenance of sulphur and the S-saturation history in order to potentially vector towards conduit-hosted orthomagmatic mineralisation.

In summary, this project represents an exceptional opportunity to combine exploration and academic principles into a model central to further development of the Irish-British mineral industries. The project will provide the student with a range of transferable skills applicable to both the academic and industrial environments, with significant opportunity for a series of high-impact publications.

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the NERC Great Western Four+ Doctoral Training Partnership (GW4+ DTP). The GW4+ DTP consists of the Great Western Four alliance of the University of Bath, University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Exeter plus six Research Organisation partners: British Antarctic Survey, British Geological Survey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Met Office, the Natural History Museum and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. The partnership aims to provide a broad training in earth and environmental sciences, designed to train tomorrow’s leaders in earth and environmental science. For further details about the programme please see http://nercgw4plus.ac.uk/

See please http://www.exeter.ac.uk/studying/funding/award/?id=2281 for more details on how to apply.

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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

South West England