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Lithium (Li) mineral characterization of drill cores and hand specimens: supporting exploration with rapid mineralogy mapping

Batteries are a key part of the energy transition. Lithium(Li)-ion batteries are currently the main source of energy storage in the market and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. Lithium is currently regarded as a “critical mineral” both for central role in rapidly developing electric technologies and a predicted shortfall in production versus expected demand. Therefore, identification of new resources is both economically and strategically important, driving a boom in Li exploration.

Like other metals, exploration for hard-rock lithium resources faces the challenge of how to bridge scales and dimensions of observations, from field-scale (in 3D-4D) down to laboratory-based imaging and analysis (3D-2D). Moreover, the ability to identify and characterize Li mineralogy present in a sample is important in understanding potential economics of a deposit, including the required mineral processing to extract the Li resource. Combined micro-XRF and Automated Mineralogy (AMICS) is capable of high-speed analysis at the micrometer scale that can identify a wide range of Li mineralogy non-destructively in minimally prepared drill core samples, thus providing valuable information early in exploration. This case study will present mineral characterization from a number of potential lithium resources in Portugal. Preliminary results suggest significant added value of the micro-XRF approach, where a much-improved mineral-textural understanding aids exploration and ongoing evaluation of deposit potential.


Andrew Menzies1, Jorge Ferreira2, Paula Avila2, Nigel Kelly3, Roald Tagle1
1Bruker Nano Analytics GmbH, Germany; 2Laboratório Nacional de Energia e Geologia, Porto, Portugal; 3Bruker Nano Analytics, Denver, CO, USA
GeoBerlin 2023