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Metalliferous Shales and the Role of Organic Matter with Examples from China, Poland, and the United States

Raymond M. Coveney, Jr.
Raymond M. Coveney, Jr.
Department of Geosciences, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Kansas City, Missouri 64110-2499
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January 01, 1997


Some of the world' s most important mineral resources occur in shales. Deposits at Shaba in the Congo, White Pine in the United States, and Lubin in Poland each hold or originally contained greater than 500 million tons of high-grade Cu ore and those at Meggen in Germany, the Selwyn basin in Canada, and Red Dog in Alaska contain multimillion-ton Pb-Zn sedimentary-exhalative (sedex) ores hosted by black shales and related beds (e.g., Rentsch, 1974; Brown, 1978; Gustafson and Williams, 1981; Carne and Cathro, 1982; Lange et al., 1985; Goodfellow and Jonasson, 1987; Sangster, 1990; Maynard, 1991a, b; Giże, 2000; Pratt and Warner, 2000). Moreover, recent discoveries in China (Fan et al., 1973) have led to small-scale production of shale-hosted Ni and Mo from an entirely new sort of bedded sulfide ore containing values for precious metals totaling several hundred parts per billion Au, Pt, and Pd. Together with similar deposits from the Devonian of the Yukon, the Chinese ores raise hopes for discovery of important new resources for Pt, Au, and ferroalloy metals (Fan 1983; Coveney and Chen, 1991). On the other hand, despite high tenors, shales from some enriched deposits such as the Mo-rich Pennsylvanian Mecca Quarry shale of North America and the Proterozoic HYC McArthur River Pb-Zn-Ag prospect of Australia are presently unmineable because of inadequate thickness and difficulties with beneficiation of fine-grained host phases.

In addition to their economic value as ores of base metals, organic-rich shales have been important sources of solid fuels and hydrocarbons, clays, and uranium. Moreover, organic-rich shales have had adverse economic significance because of their tendencies to expand and disintegrate as a result of the growth of sulfate crystals or swelling of clays disrupting the foundations of buildings and the roofs of mines (Coveney and Parizek, 1977; Rudy, 1982). Metalliferous black shales also may have more general environmental significance. For example, they no doubt contribute heavy metals to soils, ground water, and surface waters (Bailey, 1995; Forseh, 1997) and therefore their presence may dictate the need for baseline geochemical studies in road construction projects, for example. Because of their high U contents, black shales have been suspected as sources of gas (e.g., Coveney et al., 1987).

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Reviews in Economic Geology

Ore Genesis and Exploration: The Roles of Organic Matter

Society of Economic Geologists
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 1997




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