Heavy mineral sands (HMS) are a resource of Ti minerals, zircon, monazite and critical elements such as Hf and the rare earth elements (REE). Portable field techniques capable of measuring the geochemical composition, such as portable XRF (pXRF), may assist in identifying and quantifying the multiple minerals present in HMS. In this study, we assess the application of pXRF to the characterization of garnet–magnetite mineral sands from the Namibian coastline. Forty-six HMS samples from the northern Namibian coast were analysed by pXRF for SiO2, Ti, Mn, Fe, Zr, Th, Y, V and Hf. The HMS were analysed as powdered and unground samples to test whether minimal sample preparation yields reliable results. Our tests show that the pXRF results of unground sands scatter widely due to sample heterogeneity. Powdered samples, however, can be measured precisely and can be corrected with conventional laboratory analyses. Some spectral interference specific to this material occurs, e.g. Th on Pb and Bi and Hf on Cu. Selectively corrected pXRF data for powdered HMS were compared to XRD Rietveld data to determine proportions of heavy minerals (Ti minerals, Fe oxides, zircon, garnet). Geochemical and mineralogical data correlated well for garnet and moderately for Fe oxides and Ti minerals. The presence of zircon and monazite is also indicated by Zr, Hf and Th concentrations, which demonstrates that pXRF is a useful tool for HMS characterization.

Supplementary material: Tables of raw data (Supplementary Table S1), statistical parameters (Supplementary Table S2) and corrected pXRF values (Supplementary Table S3) are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4536992

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