Project Info

Critical Minerals for the Green Energy Transition

Katharina Pfaff

Project Goals and Description:

The goal of this project is to understand the critical mineral occurrence in primary ore from four different deposit types, namely volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS), low sulfidation (LS) epithermal, sediment hosted Cu and sedimentary exhalative Zn deposits. The proposed project will help to fill the knowledge gap on the occurrence, distribution, abundance, residence, and deportment of critical minerals in these deposits. Information on the amount, residence, and value of critical minerals in these deposit types will lay the foundation to an improved understanding of the critical mineral endowment in these deposits and deposit types and will foster future efforts to recover them from processed mine waste and unmined resources and lower the nation’s import reliance.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Not applicable.

Primary Contacts:

Katharina Pfaff, Thomas Monecke  

Student Preparation


Interest in working a mineralogical lab and to characterize the mineralogy/ critical mineral endowment in ore deposits. Some background or interest in geology and mineralogy.


3-5 hours per week


The student(s) will work in an analytical laboratory and participate in safety training, sample preparation, data acquisition, quality control. Moreover, the student will grow their organizational skills and engage in literature research. Analytical work will be followed by data analysis and data interpretation. Following data synthesis, the student will develop critical thinking and effective communication skills. The student(s) will participate in research group meetings and meetings with university and industry stakeholders.


The selected MURF student(s) will be closely working with PI Pfaff and graduate student assistants. The student will participate in research group meetings and meetings with university and industry stakeholders. The student will be trained in sample preparation, data acquisition, data interpretation, and subsurface modeling. The student(s) will participate in discussions and present their findings to their mentors. The research project will be subdivided into three general milestones with discrete goals:
  • Learning: Working in an analytical laboratory (including safety training), sample preparation, data acquisition, quality control, organizational skills, and literature review
  • Learning/Analysis: Achievement of information literacy, data analysis, critical thinking, training of effective communication skills, data acquisition and interpretation
  • Analysis/Synthesis/Presentation: Data interpretation, critical thinking during data analysis and quantitative reasoning skills, data presentation – quantitative and scientific reasoning, effective communication skills and presentation of research outcomes.


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