HiTech AlkCarb at St Andrews


HiTech AlkCarb is a EU Horizon 2020 funded consortium that included major Universities across Europe working on the way in which critical or green e-tech metal deposits form. It focussed on those hi-technology metals hosted in alkaline silicate rocks and carbonatite, hence the acronym: HiTech AlkCarb. It included a variety of collaborative projects, as well as joint fieldwork campaigns to rare element deposits around the world. The St Andrews arm of the project employed as a post-doctoral research fellow Dr Will Hutchison and, in the latter stages of the project, Dr Anouk Borst and Dr Nicky Horsburgh. Curtis Rooks and Lucy Mathieson  worked on outreach and legacy aspects of the project. The project was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and
innovation programme under grant agreement No. 689909.


The St Andrews component of the consortium was to understand better the processes occurring in magmatic roof zones, particularly the mechanisms by which critical metal deposits are formed. St Andrews took part in field expeditions to Namibia, Malawi, Mongolia, Italy and Greenland as part of the project, and particularly led expeditions to Greenland in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Fieldwork in 2017 also included HiTech AlkCarb expert panellist Prof Henrik Friis of the University of Oslo and fieldwork in 2018 included members of the HtAc consortium. The samples collected during all St Andrews field expeditions (including these trips) are available for collaborative research and their nature and locations can be determined using our web-portal (see below).

Our research focussed on the roof zones of two intrusions within the Gardar province of South Greenland: Motzfeldt and Ilimaussaq. The data from Motzfeldt were published in 2019. One particular target was to develop the use of sulfur isotopes to constrain the temperature, pH and redox states of late-stage fluids and to combine sulfur and hafnium data (collected at Oslo) to study the temporal evolution of the sub-Gardar mantle.

HiTech AlkCarb established collaborations with the Universidade Agostinho Neto Luanda in Angola. The magmatic centres in Namibia that were examined as part of the project form part of a series of contemporary magmatic provinces that extend into Southern Angola. However, due to the legacy of the Angolan Civil War (ending 2002), access to these centres has been minimal. Adrian Finch, Anouk Borst and Pete Siegfried of GeoAfrica visited Luanda and Nejoio in Southern Angola in order to take the research we were carrying out in Northern Namibia to the Angolan audience. St Andrews then supervised four undergraduate students from Luanda in their dissertation studies. A summary of the fieldwork in Nejoio was published by Anouk.

Scientific and Public Science Publications

Several publications in the academic open literature have resulted from HiTech AlkCarb activities and several more are in preparation. All are open access. Publications to date include (HiTech AlkCarb collaborators are highlighted in bold):

Finch AA, McCreath JA, Reekie CDJ, Hutchison W, Ismaila A, Armour-Brown A, Andersen T, Simonsen SL (2019) From Mantle to Motzfeldt: A Genetic Model for Syenite-hosted Ta,Nb-mineralisation. Ore Geology Reviews, 107, 402-416.

Hutchison W, Babiel RJ, Finch AA, Marks MAW, Markl G, Boyce AJ, Stüeken EE, Friis H, Borst AM & Horsburgh NJ (2019) Sulphur isotopes of alkaline magmas unlock long-term records of crustal recycling on Earth. Nature Communications, 10, 4208.

Borst AM (2019) New Frontiers of Critical Metal Exploration: Alkaline Igneous Rocks of Angola. The Applied Mineralogist, 4, no 4, 3-5. 

Finch AA, Hutchison W & Borst AM (2019) How Volcanoes Recycle the Earth’s Crust to Uncover Rare Metals that are Vital to Green Technology. The Conversation, article 125159.

Elliott HAL, Wall F, Chakhmouradian AR, Siegfried PR, Dahlgren S, Weatherley S, Finch AA, Marks MAW, Dowman E & Deady E (2018) Fenites associated with carbonatite complexes: a review. Ore Geology Reviews93, 38-59.

Samples and Data

St Andrews took part in field expeditions to Namibia, Malawi, Mongolia, Italy and Greenland as part of the project. The samples collected during these trips are available for collaborative research and their nature and locations can be determined using our web-portal.

Data for each of the publications are presented alongside the presentations as supplementary data. Further datasets for each of the publications have been uploaded onto the St Andrews data repository Pure.

Motzfeldt Data and Fieldwork 1995-2019

HiTech AlkCarb Outreach

In addition to the scientific programme, St Andrews has been involved in outreach activities associated with HiTech AlkCarb. St Andrews hosts the GeoBUS project, a free educational outreach for schools developed and run by the School of Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of St Andrews since 2012. GeoBUS has developed and delivered materials regarding critical metals, green e-tech metals and climate change as part of both the SoS RARE and HiTech AlkCarb projects, including fun resources such as Rare Earth ‘Top trumps’ and Critical Metals ‘Happy Families’.

The Polar Academy is a UK-based charity seeking to broaden the experiences of young people (typically 15-16 years old) by involving them in Greenland exploration. On January 2020, HiTech AlkCarb held a public event for the Polar Academy explaining the heritage of Polar Exploration at the University of St Andrews and explaining the scientific justification for current expeditions, the most recent of which was funded by HiTech AlkCarb.

Our sulfur isotope work was picked up by several national newspapers and summarised in a hot science topics journal called ‘The Conversation’.

Frances Wall from Camborne School of Mines (another HiTech AlkCarb PI) and Adrian Finch ran a short course entitled “Resources in Carbonatite and peralkaline rocks: Everything you wanted to know but were too shy to ask at the Society of Geology Applied to Ore Deposits conference in Glasgow in 2019.