By William Hutchison, University of St Andrews
Alkaline magmas are commonly associated with continental rift zones and although relatively rare from a global perspective, their evolved melt chemistry, low viscosity and volatile-rich nature make them some of the most unusual magmatic systems on Earth. These magmas are also of major economic interest because they are often enriched in economically-valuable rare earth elements. Despite their importance, the three-dimensional structure of alkaline magma bodies is not well understood and our project (HiTech AlkCarb) is focused on developing new geochemical proxies for targeting alkaline ore systems that have the potential for mineralisation at depth.
To do this we are investigating mineralised magma bodies in Greenland that thanks to geological uplift and erosion are now exposed at the Earth’s surface. Field work in Greenland is spectacular and allows breath-taking views of the fjords, glaciers and wildlife (whales, musk ox and eagles!). Over two field seasons we collected a range of samples from these magma bodies and are now using state-of-the-art microanalytical geochemical tools to understand how the rare earth elements are transported and concentrated within these systems. Once we understand mineralization processes in Greenland we hope to test out our new tools in other alkaline systems where similar deposits are expected (but exposure is not so good!).
William Hutchison is a research fellow at the University of St Andrews. His research is focused on both active and ancient magmatic-hydrothermal systems, and utilises a multidisciplinary approach to understand the fundamental processes that drive these systems. Find out more about the HiTech AlkCarb project here :https://www.bgs.ac.uk/hiTechAlkCarb/ , and more about Will’s work by visiting his website: https://willhutchison.co.uk/