Stibnite vein in the Maria Rosa mine (Cáceres province, Spain, 2020).
© BRGM - Eric Gloaguen
Issues and needs
Antimony is a critical metal for the EU, since China is currently the world's largest producer (about 87% of global production). Typical co-products of antimony deposits include other highly strategic metals, such as tungsten and precious metals like gold and silver. However, antimony is also frequently associated with mercury and arsenic, which represent a high risk to human health in the EU.
The AUREOLE project uses both a cross-disciplinary and multidisciplinary approach to help improve our knowledge of the location of primary resources and the environmental risks associated with antimony mineralisations. The AUREOLE project aims to improve the efficiency of mining exploration for antimony and tungsten in the EU and assess the potential environmental risks over a large spatial scale (e.g. an entire geological domain).
The project is built on two pillars:
- the scaling of current models of mineralisation processes, as well as models under development, from the scale of the deposits to the scale of the crust and the mantle;
- the use of new regional-scale data layers for predictive targeting, coupled with the available data and databases (e.g. geomorphology, weathering), in order to estimate the likelihood of environmental risks linked to toxic metalloids associated with antimony mineralisation (e.g. arsenic, mercury, selenium, titanium) across large geographical areas.
Antimony and tungsten mine in San Antonio (Alburquerque, Spain, 2020).
© BRGM - Eric Gloaguen
Environmental-risk assessment is generally based on data from soils, water and mining activities, but rarely on data from the substratum and primary mineralisation. With this in mind, the project's main objectives are:
- to develop a new integrated regional metallogenic model for antimony and tungsten ore deposits in areas with high potential, such as the Variscan massifs of the Iberian Peninsula and France;
- to develop predictive maps of the antimony mineralisations that represent the least risk for people and the environment, and with the most useful associated co-products, in areas with high potential such as the Variscan massifs of Iberia and France. This predictive map will be based on the new integrated regional metallogenic model for the different types of antimony deposits;
- to develop an innovative approach to environmental risk assessment by cross-referencing large-scale mineral exploration data with the surface processes involved in the mobility and transport of the metals.
These maps of potential environmental risks will be produced for the area covering the Variscan Massifs of Iberia and France.
The AUREOLE project is being coordinated by BRGM, which is also actively involved in the following aspects:
- field-data acquisition,
- geological and digital 3D modelling,
- analyses of the bacterial processes that are partly responsible for the mobility of the metals,
- the production of predictive maps and the development of associated methodological and IT tools.
- the French Geological Survey (BRGM), project coordinator
- the Orléans Institute of Earth Sciences (ISTO)
- the Escuela de Ingeniería Minera e Industrial de Almadén - University of Castilla-La Mancha (IGeA-UCLM), Spain
- the Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto (FCUP), Portugal
- the Antea Group