The mobile element found in volcanoes

Thursday 23 March 2006

A research student at the University of St Andrews has been funded to investigate a rare mineral formed deep beneath ancient volcanoes in Greenland.

Yorkshire-based mining company Angus & Ross plc, has sponsored Jamie McCreath to investigate 1280 million year old volcanic rock for quantities of tantalum. The rare element is commonly used as capacitors in the electronics industry, from laptop computers and mobile phones to cars, as well as in speciality alloys used in the aeronautics industry. Currently, the world’s major tantalum producing countries are Australia, Brazil, Canada and central Africa.

PhD student Jamie will spend three years on the studentship, which includes two field trips to the remote region known to contain the high concentrations of tantalum bearing minerals. His task is to determine the potential extent of tantalum mineralisation in the Motzfeldt region in southern Greenland. To understand that fully, he is currently focussed on finding out when, how and why the tantalum rich mineralisation formed.

Jamie has already carried out one trip with his supervisors Dr Adrian Finch (University of St Andrews) and Dr Ashlyn Armour- Brown (Angus & Ross) and will make his second visit in the coming summer, when he will continue mapping, geophysical surveying and sampling.

The area under investigation is around 100 square kilometres, already identified as having a number of tantalum ‘hotspots’. Its mode of formation is unlike any other major tantalum deposit, making this work of particular interest to the wider scientific community. Jamie has already undertaken one field trip, experiencing winds gusting up to 100mph and temperatures below freezing, though they do have the advantage of prolonged daylight. It is a challenging role to undertake 6 week long trips in an area where the water freezes overnight and each morning brings a full day of strenuous work in inhospitable conditions.

Jamie said: “The physically and mentally challenging nature of the field work, in addition to the fact that the area it is a ‘geological complex’, make this project so interesting and a privilege to work on.”

It is the first studentship offered by Angus & Ross, and was provided to St Andrews on the basis of its expertise in the particular area of Greenland under study. The partnership came about through the University’s Dr Finch, who has already investigated the rocks in North Motzfeldt and is one of few specialists world-wide with an expertise in late-stage enrichment of elements in volcanic environments. As a petrologist, Dr Finch is interested in how and why these mineral occurrences form beneath volcanoes, and in 1995 he produced the first map of the North Motzfeldt area, a few km north of the area in the present study.

He said: “Jamie’s work is extremely important in understanding how rare element deposits form beneath volcanoes and the field area presents fantastic vertical sections through the geological structures. We are extremely excited by the collaborative work with Angus & Ross in this region.”




JAMIE MCCREATH – TEL 01334 463930 / 07759 142913, EMAIL [email protected]

ADRIAN FINCH – TEL 01334 462384 / 07969 887634, EMAIL aaf1@st-



Issued by Beattie Media – On behalf of the University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st-

Ref: Greenland 230306.doc

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