Alnö Carbonatite: A Future Moneymaker?
Abstract: Carbonatites are rare igneous rocks, which contain at least 50 %, carbonate minerals. They are often found along with alkaline silicate rocks, meaning that they contain relatively large amounts of Na2O and K2O, and important tools to understand mantle processes. Importantly, carbonatites are known to be rich in REE (Rare Earth Elements), compared to other magmatic rocks. The Alnö complex is located in the northern part of the island of Alnö, northeast of Sundsvall and is one of the biggest ring-shaped intrusions of the alkaline and carbonatite sort. The origin of carbonatites is not fully known yet but they may have resulted from a mantle plume, and absolute dating methods indicate that the age of the Alnö carbonatites are around 600 Ma. A large amount of carbonatites have been found in the Alnö complex and the purpose of this thesis is to assess whether the Alnö complex and its carbonatites can become a potential source of REEs and if it can be profitable to mine these. The research has been conducted by first analyzing samples from the Alnö complex in thin sections through a light polarising microscope. The thin sections were photographed with a focus on apatite crystals, since apatite are hosts of REE. The apatites in the thin sections are crystals with high relief, sub-rounded and white-grey in color in a calcitic matrix. The images of the apatite were then edited with photoshop, to graphically isolate the apatite. The processed images were then analyzed in a program called “ImageJ” to calculate the total area of apatites in the thin sections and the area percentage of apatites. The area percentage helps to give an estimation of how much REE that can occur in the carbonatites of the Alnö Complex. A recent 3D- analysis of the Alnö complex using petrophysical and geophysical methods indicated the volume of the complex, which when coupled with our apatite data, allows us to estimate the total REE volume. The estimation of occurrences of apatites was calculated to around 13 % of the carbonatites in the Alnö complex. The cost to mine the REEs was much higher than the market price of the REEs. So the Alnö carbonatites are not profitable to mine for REEs today.
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