Drilling an alkaline-carbonatite complex (REEDRILL)

Songwe Hill, Malawi

Location of the Songwe Hill carbonatite in southern Malawi, with other carbonatites (red circles) and alkaline rocks (orange) highlighted, plus water features (blue). (A) geological map of the Songwe Hill carbonatite and Mauze nepheline syenite draped on a DTM, with total magnetic intensity draped over the geological map.

Alkaline-carbonatite igneous complexes host the world’s largest and highest grade rare earth element (REE) deposits and are critical for the global transition from fossil fuels towards a low-carbon society. Many aspects of these igneous complexes remain poorly understood, particularly relating to variation in composition and structure with depth. A significant question is the spatial and temporal variability in fluids associated with alkaline-carbonatite complexes, and their influence on microbial deep life and on groundwater systems.

This project wants to undertake deep drilling of a carefully selected and well-characterised REE-rich complex in Malawi (Songwe Hill) to investigate, how fluid-rock interactions have evolved over time to control mineralisation geometry, groundwater hydrogeochemistry, and deep subsurface life.

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