Ore deposits and commodities

Minerals are vital natural resources that underpin every aspect of our daily lives, from the building materials for our homes to the variety of rare metals in our mobile telephones. The vast majority of these minerals are derived from naturally occurring deposits, which have to be extracted from the Earth by mining or quarrying.

The BGS ore deposits and commodities team researches the formation of ore deposits, and also compiles and analyses global mineral production statistics and information. We collaborate widely, and are involved in a large number of projects with funding from a range of sources. We carry out fieldwork in locations across the globe, both on land and the sea floor.

Critical raw materials research

Critical raw materials are those materials that have growing economic importance and a likelihood of supply shortage, also termed 'supply risk'. The ore deposits and commodities team's research focuses on this increasingly important commodity group, variably referred to as 'critical', 'strategic', 'E-tech elements' and 'technology metals'. The critical metals have a diverse range of applications, with increasing demand particularly from high-technology industries and the 'green' or clean energy sector. Examples include:

  • rare earth elements, used in high-performance magnets for electric cars and wind turbines
  • niobium for high-strength alloys
  • lithium for batteries
  • platinum group metals for autocatalysts
  • tellurium and selenium for solar panels

Our ore deposit research focuses on understanding the Earth processes that mobilise and concentrate critical metals in the crust. We frame this research within the wider context of global tectonic processes, with the ultimate aim of improving process understanding and mineral exploration targeting.

The team's ore deposit research is structured into three work packages (WPs) addressing different tectonic settings, which are shown in the schematic cross-section below:

  • WP1: the shallow-levels (≈<5 km depth) of magmatic arcs
  • WP2: mid-ocean ridges and marginal basins
  • WP3: post-collisional and extensional settings
Schematic lithosphere-scale section showing the geodynamic environments in which the processes associated with critical metal concentration are researched by the Ore Deposits and Commodities Team.

Contact

Contact Paul Lusty for more information.