Unlike “more common metals” such as copper, zinc, lead and iron, many CRM do not form the main commodity (-ies) produced from operating mines, but are instead recovered as by-products (‘companion metals’) of the primary ores at some stage during processing. Europe has a rich and diverse mineral endowment including CRM, and a map showing the distribution of selected CRM deposits of Europe, based on the ProMine database was published by EGS’s Mineral Resources Expert Group during 2016 and an updated version base on the new CRM list was delivered in December 2017. Despite these efforts, there is still need for a more comprehensive pan-European identification and compilation of mineral potential and metallogenic areas of CRM. Such metallogenic areas can be defined by the presence of mineral occurrences and deposits, past and active mines, previous and ongoing exploration activities, favorable bedrock geology, geophysical signatures, geochemistry and predictive/prospectivity mapping.

The present project will build on previously and currently developed pan-European and national databases, and expand the strategic and CRM knowledge trough a compilation of mineral potential and metallogenic areas of critical raw materials resources in Europe, focused on related metal associations on land and the marine environment. Secondary resources, in terms of historical mining wastes and potential by-products will also be considered. The mineral resources targeted will have to extend beyond the current EU CRM list and include also minerals and metals (e.g. lithium, copper, and manganese) that are strategic for the European downstream industry in the mid- and long-term perspective.

To develop metallogenic research and models at regional and deposit scales, with special attention to strategic critical minerals for which the EU is highly dependent, in support of more efficient exploration and mining the following specific objectives need to be addressed:

• Identify and define the strategic minerals and metals that will make part of the metallogenetic map and related interpretations, focused on the current list of CRM, but considering also the strategic importance of some of those which were among the original candidates, such as phosphate rock, lithium, graphite, cobalt, niobium, tantalum, and others such as selenium, silver, copper, manganese, lead and iron ore. All minerals and metals collected and selected to be part of the metallogenetic map will simply go under the term CRM.

• Produce a metallogenetic map and increase the knowledge on the CRM endowments and resource potential in Europe and EU seas, based on,

– Mineralisations and deposits on land and the marine environment in which CRM make the main commodities, e.g. REE minerals related to carbonatite, nepheline syenites, pegmatites or paleoplacers, tungsten deposits related to granites, lithium feasible pegmatites, graphite hosted by schists.

– Mineralisations and deposits on land and the marine environment in which CRM make associated commodities, e.g. REE in bauxite deposits and manganese nodules; cobalt in nickel deposits and ferromanganese crusts; vanadium in iron-titanium deposits;, indium and tellurium in VMS and epithermal gold deposits

– Secondary resources, in terms of historical and modern mineral-based mining wastes (waste rocks, processing tailings, metallurgical residues) and by-products, e.g. REE in apatite concentrates related to iron extraction and red mud derived from alumina refining; indium in the waste streams of lead-zinc sulphide mining.

• Better understanding of the ore genetic links between major deposit types and hosted critical mineral and metal associations. Understanding also the mineralizing processes in different environments, including current deep sea, and using this understanding to predict and develop new mineral deposits or deposit types. This research also involves the characterization of ores, rocks, primary and secondary deposits etc. for significant elements and minerals, whose importance has increased and/or which represent cases where the occurrence is poorly understood or constrained. This objective and target will be interlinked and interactive with the tasks undertaken and the achievements resulted from GeoERA RM3 Metallogeny that will address the main deposit types and commodities.

• Be able to identify conditions and processes involved in the formation of the STR and CRM-potential deposits and develop conceptual models for their formation. 

• Predictive targeting based on GIS exploration tools, of high potential mineral provinces and mining districts.

• Provide potential CRM resource estimates based on the UNECE classification system in close cooperation with RM 1/WP 5 on UNCF system.

• Display and distribute the map and description on the Information platform.

• Highlight mineral resources criticality to high-tech economy and downstream sectors.

This project will collect and act as a source of mineral information data that will support the continuous work going on in the DG-Grow, Raw Materials Supply Group and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Criticality of the EU commission.

Relation to existing programmes and projects:

European projects including the CRM dimension are M4EU, EuRare, ProSUM, ProMine and SCRREEN. An important output from the M4EU project is the European minerals knowledge data platform (EUMKDP) and the Minerals Yearbook. The ProSUM project which has just finished at year end 17 delivered the EU Urban Mine Knowledge Data Platform (EU-UMKDP), including also mining wastes. There are also national projects going on targeting the ore potential of CRM at country level. EuRare has compiled an overview of REE metallogenetic belts in Europe. However, no pan-European map of major metallogenic provinces for a suite of CRM has been published.

Project Philosophy

Europe shows an inevitably growing and accelerating consumption of mineral commodities. At the moment the question whether supply to meet these demands is adequate or not cannot be answered with any certainty because secure supply is a matter of knowing the resources and the ability to exploit them with respect to sustainability.

It is well established and broadly accepted by now that non-energy minerals underpin our modern economy. They are essential for manufacturing and renewable “green” energy supply. Most of the environmental technologies and applications (e.g. wind turbines, photovoltaic cells, electric and hybrid vehicles) allowing energy production from renewable resources will use, so called, high-tech metals (e.g. Rare Earth Elements (REE), Platinum Group Elements (PGE), niobium, lithium, cobalt, indium, gallium, vanadium, tellurium, selenium) that were derived or refined from minerals, which Europe is strongly import dependent on. More specific, industrial trends, particularly clean and carbon-reducing technologies, are disrupting traditional metal sectors, with a robust drive in the development of battery-raw material metals. We need to calculate the volumes of critical and potentially strategic metals (e.g. cobalt, niobium, vanadium, antimony, PGE and REE) and minerals that are currently not extracted in Europe. We further need to understand how high-tech elements are mobilised, where they occur and why some are associated with specific major industrial metals.

The high import dependence of strategic (STR) and critical raw materials (CRM) has a serious impact on the sustainability of the EU manufacturing industry. This problem can only be solved by more intense and advanced exploration for new mineral deposits on land and the marine environment. Seafloor mineral resources receive growing European interest with respect to the exploration potential of REE, cobalt, selenium, tellurium and other high-tech metals.

Figure 1 – Map of the global supply of EU critical materials.

Many critical minerals and metals may be collected through recycling of mining related waste materials. However, even with the important contribution from recycling, to secure resource efficient supply it will still be necessary to extract primary mineral deposits, focusing on applying new technologies for deep exploration and mining, turning low- grade ores to exploitable resources and reducing generation of mining wastes and large tailings by converting them to exploitable resources and solving environmental footprint and land-use challenges.

As well as the dependence on extra-EU supply concerns (Fig. 1), the production of many materials is reliant on a few countries. This concentration of supply also poses concern as these few countries dominate supply of individual or several materials: Brazil (niobium), USA (beryllium), South Africa (platinum), DRC (cobalt) and China (REE, antimony, magnesium, and tungsten). Twenty countries are the largest suppliers of the CRM contributing with 90% of supply. All major suppliers of the individual critical raw materials fall within this group of twenty countries (Fig. 1). At the same time all are predicted to experience demand growth, with lithium, niobium, gallium and heavy rare earth element forecast to have the strongest rates of demand growth, exceeding 8% per year for the rest of the decade. In addition, Russia is known to have an active programme on materials stockpiles and export restrictions, China has from time to time tightened the export quotas for REE ostensibly to secure internal supply, and the US has long had a stockpile for strategic defense materials.

Figure 2 – Critical Raw Material deposits of Europe map; 2017 edition – updated after release of CRM list 11/2017.

There is a need on exploration focus by challenging more effective CRM exploration and better understanding of their metallogenetic setting and mineral potential. Discovery of new STR and CRM resources needs enhanced information on surface and subsurface geology, new concepts of mineral resource potential, particularly in underexplored areas of limited geological knowledge and projects facilitating the need to span the geosciences and be truly multidisciplinary. The question about “where are undiscovered critical mineral resources likely to exist, and how much undiscovered mineral resource may be present” needs to be answered. All of the processes involved in the formation of a CRM deposit type, a good understanding of why CRM mineral deposits occur where they do (Fig. 2), ore exploration models and resource assessment studies, make significant steps to be taken. Irrespective of the CRM exploration potential level, better understanding of the geology and metallogeny, and delivery of high-quality CRM maps may lead to new or little-known types of CRM ore deposits and ore-forming systems. In addition, future CRM exploration will likely need to focus increasingly on blind deposits. The European Union has recognized these challenges and has reacted since 2008 with its Raw Materials Initiative, following Communications (COM(2008) 699 final; COM(2011) 25 final;) and the List of Critical Raw materials. Many National Geological Surveys have supported the European Commission in identifying potential bottlenecks on CRM as well as providing information how to overcome physical shortages. However, all these activities are punctual, on individual basis and hence, not lasting.

Work Packages

More information on the Work Packages soon.


Kick off meeting of project FRAME

Officially FRAME is underway from July 1 2018 and will last until 30 June 2021. However, the kick off meeting itself took place in Brussels from the 3rd to the 5th of July with a general program as follows:

Part 1 - GeoERA Public Session – General Kick-off - Tuesday 3rd of July (Day 1)

Part 2 - GeoERA Internal Session – Project specific Kick-offs and Synergies - Wednesday 4th of July (Day 2)

Part 3 - exploitation of the synergies between projects and between themes - Thursday 5th of July (Day 3)

Below are some pictures of the three day’s activities.

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FRAME Kick-Off meeting, Brussels 3-5 July

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