20-EPN2-020: Towards prospecting ore deposits on Mars
October 9, 2022

20-EPN2-020: Towards prospecting ore deposits on Mars: remote sensing of the planetary field analogue in the Rio Tinto mining area, Spain.

Visit by Jakub Ciazela and Dariusz Marciniak, Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland) to TA1.2 Rio Tinto (Spain).
Dates of visit: 17-27 March 2022

Report Summary: The Rio Tinto area hosts the largest known volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits on Earth. We have investigated 614 sites along a river bed (Fig. 1) located 3 m from each other. At each site, we investigated 5 random samples for pyrite content. The pyrite content was always estimated by 2 to 4 researchers, and the average for each site was computed. The average pyrite content in the entire investigated area is 7.0 vol.% (12.6 wt.%). We have observed two fields, 30 x 30 m, and 30 x 60 m, with average pyrite contents >50 wt.%, which should be suitable for its detection from the orbit, both with Sentinel-2 (field resolution of 10 m) and Landsat (30 m). Principle Component Analysis of the obtained spectra from Sentinel-2 (Fig. 2) gives similar results to mineralogical data we have retrieved in the field during our geological mapping.

By establishing our test field for remote sensing of sulfide deposits in a planetary field analog on Earth, we will be able to determine abundance thresholds for the detection of major sulfide phases on Mars and identify their key spectral features. Our results will help in 1) more efficient use of the current NIR Martian spectrometers to detect ore minerals and 2) designing new space instruments optimized for ore detection to include in future missions to Mars such as one developed at the Institute of Geological Sciences and the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences called MIRORES (Martian far-IR ORE Spectrometer).

Read full scientific report with kind permission of Jakub Ciazela.

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