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Copper, gold, and Lithium could be found in Volcanic Brine Mines

Jul, 2021

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The researchers say they've spent the last five years evaluating and mitigating the process's dangers, and they're now ready to drill the first exploratory well.

The increased demand for mining that these technologies bring is one roadblock to a transition to renewable energy. Now, Oxford researchers are looking at a new approach to mine rich metals locked in hot brines beneath volcanoes while also generating geothermal power as a by-product.

It is critical that the world shift to renewable energy as rapidly as possible, however many vital technologies have other forms of environmental footprints, which is an unwelcome side consequence. Metals like gold, copper, and lithium are needed for solar cells, energy storage systems and wind turbines, and mining these metals is intensive energy and produces a lot of waste rock and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

As a result, experts at Oxford University looked into another untapped natural resource for the new study. Many of the metallic resources currently in use are the remains of old volcanic movement that have extended since solidified but perhaps one should look for more recent sources while the metal is still liquid.

Active volcanoes all around the world spew massive amounts of valuable metals into the atmosphere, says Jon Blundy, the study's corresponding author. Some of this metal endowment does not reach the surface, but is retained as fluids in hot rocks at a depth of around 2 kilometres.

These brines might possibly contain millions of tonnes of copper, as well as useful levels of other essential metals including gold, zinc, silver, and lithium, according to the team's simulations. Metal extraction from a fluid solution should be less expensive, produce less waste, and use less energy than processing solid ore. In addition, the area's natural geothermal energy could be utilized to assist with powering the procedure. With drill cores taken in Japan, Italy, Montserrat, Indonesia, and Mexico, the researchers confirmed that these metal-rich brines actually exist beneath volcanoes. They infer that such deposits lie beneath practically every active and dormant volcano throughout the planet, suggesting a large untapped gold mine, based on this and other geophysical surveys.

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