Abstract

Rare metals are essential to the development of the “green” technologies that are at the core of low-carbon societies. In nature, these metals are frequently present in trace amounts scattered in base metal ore deposits, but the physico-chemical processes that are responsible for their concentration into strategic minerals are still poorly understood. Based on laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), coupled with electron backscattered diffraction (EBSD) analysis, this study shows that plastic deformation and subsequent syntectonic recrystallization of sphalerite (zinc sulfide, ZnS) led to the spatial redistribution of germanium (Ge): from a background level of a few hundreds of parts per million in undeformed primary sphalerite to tens of weight-percent in neocrystallized Ge minerals. During dynamic recrystallization, Ge is likely released from the crystal lattice of parent sphalerite and subsequently concentrated in Ge minerals, leaving behind a Ge-depleted, recrystallized sphalerite matrix. Identifying how rare metals concentrate through deformation and syntectonic recrystallization at the mineral scale is essential to understand the spatial redistribution and localization at the deposit scale. This study highlights the importance of coupling in situ chemical mapping analysis with macro- and microstructural characterization when targeting rare metals in deformed ore.

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