Current Status of Applied Geochemistry Research in Northern Europe
November 21, 2017. Report from Northern Europe: Pertti Sarala
After several quiet years in mineral exploration, there has been sings of increase of activities in Fennoscandia. Several tens of companies are working for continuing with old mine and exploration projects but also for looking at new discoveries. The aim to find new targets is seen for example in rapid increase of exploration license applications during 2017. The increase of activities was well demonstrated in the Fennoscandian Exploration and Mining conference, the biggest mining conference in Nordic countries, that was held at the beginning of November 2017, in northern Finland (http://fem.lappi.fi/en).
In addition, the focus of mineralization types is much wider than earlier due to high mineral potential of the Fennoscandian Shield but also due to EU’s mineral strategy including a need to increase the self-production of so called critical minerals in Europe. The interest for critical minerals and elements such as In, Li, the REE, Sc, Y and PGE has been increased and new brownfield and greenfield exploration campaigns have been launched for finding potential areas for the mineralization. Particularly, metal production for battery industry is at the moment highly prioritized, and there are several projects going-on for that in Finland and Sweden.
In spite of increased exploration activity, traditional sampling programs for geochemical mapping and exploration have dropped since the last exploration boom. There are several reasons for that, for example: the increased sampling and analysis costs, tightened or restricted exploration permits, focus on deeper mineralizations, the increased use of portable field analyzers and development of low-impact sampling techniques. Particularly, the use of portable XRF (pXRF) has increased rapidly and it has had decreasing effect on the number of samples sent to laboratories. In addition, there are signs of increasing use of different nature-friendly, low-impact sampling and analysis techniques in mineral exploration using both mineral soils and vegetation. Even snow geochemistry has shown positive signals in practice. However, there has been lack of knowledge in the effectiveness of different materials and analysis techniques in variable lithological and sedimentary environment. For that reason, several development projects funded by EU or regional funding instruments were implemented as joint projects with research institutes, universities and private companies.
One example is the on-going UpDeep project (Upscaling deep buried geochemical exploration techniques into European business) funded by the EIT Raw Materials and lead by the Geological Survey of Finland (https://eitrawmaterials.eu/project/updeep/). The project promotes the use of low-impact techniques in mineral exploration and increases readiness for business by describing best practices to implement those techniques in practical use and providing new tools for QA/QC and data processing and interpretation. The next calls for applications in different EU funding instruments is now open (deadline Feb 2018) and new co-operation opportunities for European and overseas consortiums are available.