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Mineral resources research and the environmental impact of mining

Research on mineral resources is directed towards improving knowledge of the exploitable mineral resource base of the Czech Republic, on monitoring current trends and best contemporary technologies used for raw materials research and mining in developed countries, and on the analysis and strategic development of raw materials policy, including the legislative aspects of their extraction, treatment and use. Special attention is paid to Critical Resources in the context of the European Raw Materials Initiative.

The staff of CGS is also involved in basic research on the mineralogy and geochemistry of raw materials and the potential uses of mining waste. Economic geologists from the CGS participate in a wide range of projects abroad studying mineral resources in developing countries and assessing the environmental impact of mining. This includes research on ore deposits, non-metallic minerals and energy materials.

Ore deposits

At present, the investigation of ore mineralization in the Czech Republic is mainly directed towards the determination of the age of deposits in relation to the lithological, structural and metamorphic development of the Bohemian Massif. The Re-Os method is being developed for dating different types of mineralization.

Assessment of the economic potential of deposits of ores and non-metallic minerals, including the resources of associated rare elements, has been taking place in the Krušné hory Mts. Geochemical and mineralogical research into the ore deposits includes the study of primary and secondary mineralization in the classical mining districts, as well as assessment of the occurrence of non-traditional types of mineralization. Special attention is also paid to research on platinum-metal mineralization. The origin of platinum-metal mineralization is being studied not only in field, but also using experimental methods, and this work is carried out in cooperation with other scientific institutions as part of a broad programme of international cooperation.

Gold (Au) and Pt-group minerals (atokite, (Pd,Pt)3S, sperrylite, PtAs2 and paolovite, Pd2Sn) in Cu-Ni mineralization

Gold (Au) and Pt-group minerals (atokite, (Pd,Pt)3S, sperrylite, PtAs2 and paolovite, Pd2Sn) in Cu-Ni mineralization from the Norilsk deposit, Russian Federation. Reflected light. (Author: A. Vymazalová)

The Czech Geological Survey participates in investigations of mineral deposits and the evaluation of their economic potential in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Czech Geological Survey is a member of the consortium carrying out the project “Tectonic development and prediction of the raw material potential in Western Africa” (AMIRA-WAXI project).

Non-metallic minerals and building materials

Research on non-metallic minerals is focused mainly on bentonites and their use as sorbents. A special investigation of the claystones of the Cypris Formation of the Sokolov Basin has been carried out to assess the palaeogeographical and palaeoclimatological factors governing their sedimentation, as well as their technological properties and their potential use in recultivation. Under the terms of updating of the regional raw material policy of the Czech Republic, registers of mineral deposits and mining activities have been created for particular regions. This information is used in land-use planning, for protection of mineral deposits, and as a tool for the sustainable development of the raw material base of the state.

The Družba Lignite mine near Nové Sedlo, Sokolov Basin

The Družba Lignite mine near Nové Sedlo, Sokolov Basin. The claystones of the Cypris Formation overlying the Antonín coal seam are used for lightweight ceramic castings for insulation and as a material for remediation. In addition, they are used for garden substrates and as a substitute for natural zeolites. (Author: Ilja Knésl)

Research on coal is currently being carried out mainly in the Sokolov Basin and the North Bohemian Lignite Basin. In the North Bohemian Lignite Basin, the possibilities for using innovative methods of underground mining outside the present limits of brown coal mining are being investigated. This will enable effective extraction of the lignite resources remaining after the supplies accessible in the large open pits are exhausted. Members of the CGS are working in close cooperation with specialists from the Institute of Rock Structure and Mechanics AS CR to establish the most important geological factors governing the development of coal seams in the Sokolov Lignite Basin. Through the analysis of conflicts of interest and an assessment of the technical properties of the lignite, an expert reassessment of the resources remaining outside the present mining limits is being prepared.

Work on hydrocarbon (oil and gas) resources is concerned mainly with the factors determining the hermetic properties of underground gas reservoirs. Another important task relating to potential shale gas resources is the 3D modelling of the distribution of bituminous claystones in the Krkonoše Piedmont Basin.

In addition to investigations of conventional energy resources, the possibilities for extracting natural gas by hydraulic fracturing of coal seams and black shales are also being studied. This research not only involves quantitative and qualitative evaluation of suitable deposits, but also an assessment of the environmental impacts of the exploration and commercial extraction of these resources.

Bearing in mind the strategic and economic importance of energy and raw material resources and the extent of government and public interest in these matters, the CGS is continually striving to improve the structure and accessibility of its mineral deposit information system. This is an integral part of research and development activity.

Environmental impact of mining

The Czech Geological Survey has been monitoring the environmental impact of mining over a long period, as well as investigating the potential uses of mining waste. At present, emphasis is being placed on determining the distribution of rare and precious metals in mining waste and the possibilities for their extraction within the constraints set by environmental legislation.

Evaluation of the environmental impact of lignite mining in the Sokolov Lignite Basin is based on the analysis of data from the ARES hyperspectral sensor.

The extent of contamination of agricultural soils and grazing lands by potentially toxic metals in Czech Republic is being studied within the frame of the GEMAS project.

The effects of mining and mineral processing on the environment and human health have been studied in a wide range of mining areas in Namibia (Tsumeb, Berg Aukas, Rosh Pinah) and Zambia.

The Czech Geological Survey also coordinates the international project IGCP/SIDA 594 “Mining and the Environment in Africa”.

Membership of international organizations

Members of the Czech Geological Survey hold posts in many international organizations that engage in research on mineral raw materials (EuroGeoSurveys, SGA, SEG, IAGOD, AAPG).

As part of the contribution made by the Association of European Geological Surveys EuroGeoSurveys (EGS) to the European Raw Material Initiative, the mining geologists of CGS have been closely involved in formulating the Minerals 4EU project. Czech-Saxon cooperation in the area of the Krušné hory Mts has led to a project for a unified cross-border register of mineral resources and also the ArcheoMontan project, involving cooperation between economic geologists, mining experts and archaeologists.

Mufulira smelter

Over a long period, Czech geologists have been monitoring the impacts on the environment and human health caused by mining and processing of Cu and Co ores in Copperbelt province, Zambia. One of the main sources of contamination of air, soil and vegetation by toxic materials are the gases and solid particles emitted from the Mufulira smelter shown here. (Author: Bohdan Kříbek)

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