The Carboniferous Lower and Middle Coal Measures coals of the Northumberland Coalfield are anomalously rich in selenium (Se) content (up to 62 ppm) compared to the averages for the common UK and worldwide coals. As well as posing an environmental toxicity threat, Se is now regarded as an important resource for alloys, photovoltaic products and nanotechnologies, and high Se coals in North East England offer an opportunity to assess the Se means of occurrence, origins, transport mechanisms and enrichment in coals. At least two generations of pyrite host high Se in the sampled coal seams: microbial-formed disseminated pyrite (both cubic and framboidal in habit) and later cleat-filling pyrite, identified by petrographic observations, laser ablation methods and sulphur isotope compositions. There is a notable Se enrichment of up to 250 ppm in later formed cleat-filling pyrite. Trace element enrichment may have been sourced and influenced by seawater distribution during diagenesis, and localised dykes and deformation may have acted as an enrichment mechanism for sampled seams in the region. The high Se coals in Northumberland may provide a potential E tech element source and should be considered and carefully managed as coal mining and production are reduced in the area. The study also highlights the nature of Se enrichment in pyritic coals affected by cleat formation and multiple episodes of mineralisation, important as critical element demand continues to increase worldwide.
- pyritic coals
- metalliferous coals
- coal measures
- cleat formation
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John Still (Manager)Geology and Geophysics
Research Facilities: Facility