Kyle Henderson

Doctoral Candidate, McGill University

Metalliferous Black Shales: A Source of Critical Metals to Safeguard a Sustainable Future

Kyle's Experiential Plan

A sustainable, low-carbon, renewable energy-based future hinges on a handful of critical metals. Critical metals, like nickel, lithium or vanadium, are materials for which there are no viable substitutes in specific technologies and which most countries are dependent on importing from a small list of producers.  Nickel, lithium and vanadium are vital metals in creating battery technology for energy storage. A disruption in the supply of critical metals, either through lack of production or geopolitical tensions, will negatively impact the transition to a sustainable future.

To ensure a sufficient supply of critical metals,additional resources of these metals need to be discovered, and current reserves need to be expanded. So-called  metalliferous black shales provide an attractive potential future resource. Metal-rich, or metalliferous black shales are fine-grained, organic-rich sedimentary rocks that,due to their depositional conditions, may contain sufficiently high concentrations of metals to allow for their economic extraction. However, the conditions under which these deposits form and the parameters that govern their metal-enrichment to economic viability, both of which are required to explore and develop individual deposits efficiently, are unclear. To address this uncertainty, several metal-rich black shales have been chosen for detailed analysis to determine the specific set of conditions that govern metal enrichment. This will encompass the full spectrum of metal-enrichment from average black shales to hyper-enriched black shales have contain metals up to five orders of magnitude greater than average. These shales also have a possible, but an unverified causal relationship with several convention ore deposits–including gold and lead-zinc deposits. This project will develop practical tools that can be utilized in exploring and discovering additional resources that will be critical in ensuring a reliable supply of critical metals.

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