Rees and other critical raw materials in Cretaceous Mediterranean-type... Rees and other critical raw materials in Cretaceous Mediterranean-type bauxite: The case of the Sardinian ore (Italy)


“Mediterranean-type bauxite deposits in Sardinia formed during the Upper Cretaceous (Cenomanian–Turonian) due to the emergence of the south European margin of the Alpine Tethys in an area affected by monsoonal climate. The deposits were controlled by the structural frame formed in a transpressive tectonic regime and unconformably overlie carbonate rocks of different age and composition, which led to the formation of different bauxite types. In general, in the Sardinian bauxite deposits, boehmite is the main Al-phase, kaolinite is the main Si-rich mineral, and hematite as well as goethite are the Fe-rich phases. Secondary authigenic anatase and detrital rutile control the Ti contents. Eu/Eu* anomalies show that the bauxite types were derived from the Variscan basement. However, there are differences in Al2O3 and SiO2 contents, which suggest there was localised variability in the extent of epigenetic replacement of kaolinite by boehmite. R-mode factor analysis suggests that most critical raw materials (as defined by the devoted European Union working group), such as Sc, Ga, Nb, Hf, Ta, and W, covary with Al2O3 contents. In the Si-poor bauxite, these metals of economic interest are likely controlled by boehmite, whereas in the Si-rich bauxite they are mostly controlled by weathering-resistant minerals. Rare earth element (REE)-rich minerals, including fluorocarbonates and cerianite, are concentrated in the basal, illuvial horizon, especially in the silica-rich bauxite (ΣREE = 1006–2034 ppm). Cerianite formation required Ce oxidation, whereas fluorocarbonate formation involved mobilisation of trivalent REEs and further fluoride complexation. Both REE-rich mineral phases precipitated under alkaline pH conditions near to the carbonate bedrock. Our evaluation of the critical raw materials distribution in the Sardinian bauxite, coupled with the “economic importance” and “supply risk” parameters, indicate the ore contains large amounts of metals characterised by a “supply risk”, such as light and heavy REEs, and metals of “economic importance”, such as V and W. In this way, the Sardinian bauxite deposits could be reconsidered as a potential source of critical raw materials.”


Giovanni Mongelli, Paola Mameli, Rosa Sinisi, Roberto Buccione, Giacomo Oggiano


Critical raw materials, REEs, Mediterranean-type bauxite. Supply risk, Sardinia