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International team, including UMPI geology professor, earns research grant

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A geology professor at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and his research partners in China and Japan recently received word that they have been awarded a 560,000 Chinese yuan grant (about $80,000 in U.S. funds) from the National Natural Science Foundation of China for a three-year project.

Dr. Chunzeng Wang, along with research partners Dr. Xiaofeng Li of the Institute of Mineral Resources of China National Academy of Geosciences, and Dr. Watanabe Yasushi of the Institute of Geo-Resources and Environment of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan, will use the funding to continue research into mineralization processes for several important copper and gold deposits in south China.

Since 2004, Dr. Wang and his colleagues have researched several deposits in the Dexing mineral district, one of the largest copper-gold districts in China, with financial support from a previous Chinese NSF grant. The Dexing mineral district is located in the northeast area of Jiangxi Province. Dr. Wang spent six weeks doing field work in China in the summer of 2006, and another four weeks in the summer of 2007.

The research Dr. Wang and his colleagues conducted focused on detailed field and microscopic observations, the geochemistry of ore fluids inclusions, the geochemistry of ore-related stable isotopes, and high-precision geochronology. The results could be used to help in mineral prospecting and exploration into geologically similar areas. For Dr. Wang, the work has been an excellent opportunity to conduct interdisciplinary research involving structural geology, ore geology, fluids inclusion geochemistry, geochronology, and geologic mapping and spatial analysis with GIS (geographic information systems) technology.

The new grant will allow Wang and his colleagues to focus on the Dexing copper deposit, which is the largest open-pit porphyry copper deposit in Asia. Porphyry copper is the most important type of copper deposit in the world. The researchers will be able to conduct sophisticated analysis of ore-related quartz, sulfides and fluid inclusions using a Scanning Electron Microscope, Multi Collector-Inductive Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry, and Laser Ablation-Inductive Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry. GIS methods will be also used to integrate and analyze geologic, structural, and geochemical data.

This grant-funded research connects closely to the work Dr. Wang conducts in the U.S. One of his research interests is magmatic processes and magmatic emplacement mechanisms. His current research on the Norumbega fault in central-eastern Maine involves Turner Mountain syenite, which is a rare igneous pluton exposed within the fault zone. The Dexing project and two other Chinese projects on which Wang has been working all deal with igneous plutons, either their contributions to ore formation or their genesis and emplacement mechanisms. In addition, as a GIS specialist at UMPI, one of Dr. Wang's specialties is applying GIS technology in solving geologic and environmental problems.

Dr. Wang and his research partners now are working on next year's project plan. Dr. Wang hopes part of those plans can include taking a student in UMPI's geology concentration program to China next summer to work with him in the field.