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Critical metals distribution in Tethyan karst bauxite: The Cretaceous Italian ores


Giovanni Mongelli a, Maria Boni b, Giacomo Oggiano c, Paola Mameli c, Rosa Sinisi a, Roberto Buccione a, Nicola Mondillo b

a Department of Sciences, University of Basilicata, Viale dell’Ateneo Lucano 10, 85100 Potenza, Italy

b Dipartimento Scienze della Terra, dell’Ambiente e delle Risorse, University of Naples ‘‘Federico II”, via Mezzocannone 8, 80134 Naples, Italy
c Department of Nature and Land Resources, University of Sassari, via Piandanna 4, 07100 Sassari, Italy
Ore Geology Reviews 86 (2017) 526–536
Bauxite is a residual rock, consisting mainly of a mixture of aluminum hydroxides, whose industrial significance is primarily due to its profitably exploitable alumina contents. In the last decades, bauxite, mainly karst bauxite, has been also considered as possible resource of a great number of economically interesting elements including some critical metals such as rare earth elements, Sc, Co, Ni, and Nb. In this study, we present results of univariate and multivariate (R-mode factor analysis) statistics performed on a large data set including chemical composition of the principal Cretaceous karst bauxites from central and southern Italy with the twofold aim to evaluate the inter-elemental relationship among major oxides and critical metals, and describe factors affecting their distribution. Univariate statistics reveal that some critical metals Co, Ni, and LREE, have a significant number of outliers. The Co-Ni relationship associated to the outliers dataset suggests that Co is likely hosted in Ni-rich phases whereas Ce accumulation in authi- genic minerals, carbonate-fluoride and phosphate, is at the origin of LREE outliers. Multivariate R-mode statistics, applied to the outliers-devoid database, instead demonstrate that in absence of specific mineralization events, the distribution of most critical metals is controlled by Al-, Fe-, and Ti-oxi-hydroxides and, to a lesser extent, by detrital phases. Among the critical metals, Cr and Y are the exceptions. Their geochemical behaviour seems to be influenced primarily by their own chemical features that are responsible for the mobility of Cr during bauxitization and for the decoupling of Y from the REEs.