Continental shelves as potential resource of rare earth elements

Abstract : The results of this study allow the reassessment of the rare earth elements (REE) external cycle. Indeed, the river input to the oceans has relatively flat REE patterns without cerium (Ce) anomalies, whereas oceanic REE patterns exhibit strong negative Ce anomalies and heavy REE enrichment. Indeed, the processes at the origin of seawater REE patterns are commonly thought to occur within the ocean masses themselves. However, the results from the present study illustrate that seawater-like REE patterns already occur in the truly dissolved pool of river input. This leads us to favor a partial or complete removal of the colloidal REE pool during estuarine mixing by coagulation, as previously shown for dissolved humic acids and iron. In this latter case, REE fractionation occurs because colloidal and truly dissolved pools have different REE patterns. Thus, the REE patterns of seawater could be the combination of both intra-oceanic and riverine processes. In this study, we show that the Atlantic continental shelves could be considered potential REE traps, suggesting further that shelf sediments could potentially become a resource for REE, similar to metalliferous deep sea sediments. 2
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Olivier Pourret, Johann Tuduri. Continental shelves as potential resource of rare earth elements. Scientific Reports, Nature Publishing Group, 2017, 7 (1), ⟨10.1038/s41598-017-06380-z⟩. ⟨hal-02265816⟩

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