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Minerals 2017, 7(12), 233; https://doi.org/10.3390/min7120233

Advances and Opportunities in Ore Mineralogy

1
School of Chemical Engineering, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia
2
BHP Olympic Dam, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia
3
Adelaide Microscopy, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia
4
Key Laboratory of Ministry of Education on Safe Mining of Deep Metal Mines, School of Resources and Civil Engineering, Northeastern University, Shenyang 110819, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 October 2017 / Revised: 19 November 2017 / Accepted: 22 November 2017 / Published: 24 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Fundamentals and Frontiers in Mineralogy)
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Abstract

The study of ore minerals is rapidly transforming due to an explosion of new micro- and nano-analytical technologies. These advanced microbeam techniques can expose the physical and chemical character of ore minerals at ever-better spatial resolution and analytical precision. The insights that can be obtained from ten of today’s most important, or emerging, techniques and methodologies are reviewed: laser-ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry; focussed ion beam-scanning electron microscopy; high-angle annular dark field scanning transmission electron microscopy; electron back-scatter diffraction; synchrotron X-ray fluorescence mapping; automated mineral analysis (Quantitative Evaluation of Mineralogy via Scanning Electron Microscopy and Mineral Liberation Analysis); nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry; atom probe tomography; radioisotope geochronology using ore minerals; and, non-traditional stable isotopes. Many of these technical advances cut across conceptual boundaries between mineralogy and geochemistry and require an in-depth knowledge of the material that is being analysed. These technological advances are accompanied by changing approaches to ore mineralogy: the increased focus on trace element distributions; the challenges offered by nanoscale characterisation; and the recognition of the critical petrogenetic information in gangue minerals, and, thus the need to for a holistic approach to the characterization of mineral assemblages. Using original examples, with an emphasis on iron oxide-copper-gold deposits, we show how increased analytical capabilities, particularly imaging and chemical mapping at the nanoscale, offer the potential to resolve outstanding questions in ore mineralogy. Broad regional or deposit-scale genetic models can be validated or refuted by careful analysis at the smallest scales of observation. As the volume of information at different scales of observation expands, the level of complexity that is revealed will increase, in turn generating additional research questions. Topics that are likely to be a focus of breakthrough research over the coming decades include, understanding atomic-scale distributions of metals and the role of nanoparticles, as well how minerals adapt, at the lattice-scale, to changing physicochemical conditions. Most importantly, the complementary use of advanced microbeam techniques allows for information of different types and levels of quantification on the same materials to be correlated. View Full-Text
Keywords: ore mineralogy; microanalysis; instrumental techniques ore mineralogy; microanalysis; instrumental techniques
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Cook, N.J.; Ciobanu, C.L.; Ehrig, K.; Slattery, A.; Verdugo-Ihl, M.R.; Courtney-Davies, L.; Gao, W. Advances and Opportunities in Ore Mineralogy. Minerals 2017, 7, 233.

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