A New Tool for Characterising REE Ore Deposits – Developing Clumped Isotopes in Strontianite (SrCO3)

A New Tool for Characterising REE Ore Deposits – Developing Clumped Isotopes in Strontianite (SrCO3)

Supervisor: John MacDonald (GES, University of Glasgow; john.macdonald.3@glasgow.ac.uk); Kathryn Goodenough (British Geological Survey); Adrian Boyce (SUERC); Keith Bateman (British Geological Survey); Sam Broom-Fendley (Camborne School of Mines)

Description: The rare earth elements (REE) are critical metals, and have a wide range of uses, notably in renewable energy and electric vehicle technologies. They are currently only mined in a few locations, with the most important mines being in China, particularly the Bayan Obo mine. As a result, security of supply is an important consideration for other countries including the UK. Many REE ore minerals are found in carbonatites, or associated late-stage hydrothermal rocks, but the genesis of mineralisation and particularly the thermal evolution of the REE deposits are not generally well known. Understanding the thermal history of REE deposits is therefore vital in characterising them for exploitation.

The main goal of this project is to determine the thermal history of carbonatite-associated REE deposits by applying the recently-developed carbonate clumped isotope palaeothermometer to the mineral strontianite (SrCO3), which is commonly texturally associated with REE ores.

The clumped isotopes method has great potential as a proxy for reconstructing past temperatures in a range of geological settings. This method is based on the temperature dependence of bonds between heavy carbon (13C) and oxygen (18O) isotopes in the carbonate mineral lattice. It has successfully been used as a temperature proxy in palaeoclimate studies using the common carbonate mineral calcite but is also attracting increasing interest as a method for determining temperatures of geological processes in the subsurface. As a carbonate mineral, strontianite is suitable for clumped isotope analysis but the technique has yet to be applied to this mineral.

This project offers an exciting opportunity for a student to apply the technique to a new mineral and for the first time in REE ore deposit settings.

Funding notes: IAPETUS’ postgraduate studentships are tenable for between 3 and 4 years, depending on the doctoral research project the student is studying and provides the following package of financial support:

  • A tax-free maintenance grant set at the UK Research Council’s national rate, which in 2017/18 is £14,553 (pending confirmation).
  • Full payment of their tuition fees at the Home/EU rate; &
  • Access to extensive research support funding.

Part-time award-holders are funded for between six (6) and eight (8) years and receive a maintenance grant at 50% of the full-time rate.

Eligibility: All applicants need to meet NERC’s eligibility criteria to be considered for an IAPETUS studentship and these are detailed in NERC’s current studentship handbook.
IAPETUS is only able to consider applications from Home/European Union candidates. International candidates are not eligible to be considered and where an candidate from another EU country has not been resident in the UK for 3 years or more prior to the commencement of their studies with IAPETUS, they will only be eligible for a fees-only studentship.

IAPETUS is looking for candidates with the following qualities and backgrounds:

  • A first or 2:1 undergraduate degree, or have relevant comparable experience;
  • In addition, candidates may also hold or be completing a Masters degree in their area of proposed study or a related discipline; &
  • An outstanding academic pedigree and research potential, such as evidenced through the publication of articles, participation in academic conferences and other similar activities.

How to Apply: Please refer to the following website for details on how to apply:

Deadline: 19 January 2018

Start Date: All studentships will commence in September/October 2018, except in exceptional circumstances.