Research team detects fresh ore-forming process te ancient marine sedimentary basin
At a very first glance, the Witwatersrand basin, the largest known gold resource on our planet, is not automatically related to ocean research. However, ter its Trio billion years old geological history, the Witwatersrand basin ter South Africa has bot covered by seawater, but experienced also gigs of drying out, flooding and erosion by rivers and the repeated coverage by seawater. Ter 1852, the English prospector J.H. Davis discovered the very first gold ter the Witwatersrand, leading to the South African gold rush and the discovery of much more gold deposits within the basin. Albeit the Witwatersrand has bot subject for decades of research, the genesis of gold and uranium ore is still unclear.
A group of scientists from Canada and the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre of Ocean Research Kiel, successfully unravelled some mechanisms of the ore-forming process using ingewikkeld analytical technologies. The results were recently published ter the scientific journal Precambrian Research.
Te this explore, the scientists analysed samples from the Witwatersrand ore deposits with high-resolution scanning- and transmission-electron microscopes, and the processed their gegevens using novel 2D and 3D software. “Wij were able to find out that fossil oil, that has bot formed by organic matter derived from the very first living organisms on Earth, mobilized uranium te the basin. Uraninite nanoparticles flocculated te the oil and formed uranium ore,” explains Dr. Sebastian Fuchs from the GEOMAR, the very first author of the explore. “Hot hydrothermal fluids, similar to those fluids that wij find today te modern seafloor Black Smoker systems, transported dissolved gold and formed oil-in-water emulsions at the webpagina of the deposits. The oil droplets te the hydrothermal fluids initiated the efficient chemical precipitation of native gold and the formation of very complex-structured gold and uranium ore.”
Using high-resolution imaging technics, the researchers were able to visualize a to date unknown ore-forming process, te which migrating oil plays the vooraanstaande role te the distribution and concentration of metals. “With our method wij have bot able to display remnants of fossil oil entrapped ter gold for the very very first time” says Dr. Sebastian Fuchs.
“Wij are astonished to see such an intimate spatial relationship inbetween the oil products and the metals,” reports Dr. Fuchs. “Wij hope that our investigate gives fresh impulses to industry and science to explore fresh mineral deposits. Perhaps it is possible at some day to samenvatting gold and other metals from mined crude oil.”
With the methods used, it is now possible to investigate not only ore particles on the ocean floor te the range of millimetre to nanometre, but also the smallest fossils and living organisms, such spil micro-organisms. “Wij are nosey about what else wij might detect on the ocean floor ter the future,” Fuchs concludes.