Astronomy:Ore resources on Mars
Mars may contain ores that would be very useful to potential colonists. The abundance of volcanic features together with widespread cratering are strong evidence for a variety of ores. While nothing may be found on Mars that would justify the high cost of transport to Earth, the more ores that future colonists can obtain from Mars, the easier it would be to build colonies there.
How deposits are made
Ore deposits are produced with the help of large amounts of heat. On Mars, heat can come from molten rock moving under the ground and from crater impacts. Liquid rock under the ground is called magma. When magma sits in underground chambers, slowly cooling over thousands of years, heavier elements sink. These elements, including copper, chromium, iron, and nickel become concentrated at the bottom. When magma is hot, many elements are free to move. As cooling proceeds, the elements bind with each other to form chemical compounds or minerals. Because some elements do not bond easily to form minerals, they exist freely after nearly all the other elements have bonded into compounds or minerals. The remaining elements are called incompatible elements. Some of them are quite useful to humans. Some examples include niobium, a metal used in producing superconductors and specialty steels, lanthanum and neodymium, and europium for television monitors and energy-efficient LED light bulbs. After the mass of magma has cooled and has mostly frozen or crystallized into a solid, a small amount of liquid rock remains. This liquid bears important substances such as lead, silver, tin, bismuth, and antimony. Sometimes minerals in the magma chamber are so hot that they occupy a gaseous state. Others are mixed with water and sulfur in aqueous solutions. The gases and mineral-rich solutions eventually work their way into cracks and become useful mineral veins. Ore minerals, including the incompatible elements, remain dissolved in the hot solution, then crystallize out when the solution cools. Deposits created by means of these hot solutions are called hydrothermal deposits. Some of the world's most significant deposits of gold, silver, lead, mercury, zinc, and tungsten started out this way. Nearly all the mines in the northern Black Hills of South Dakota came to be because of hot water deposits of minerals. Cracks often form when a mass of magma cools because magma contracts and hardens when it cools. Cracks occur both in the frozen magma mass and in the surrounding rocks, so ore is deposited in any kind of the rock that happens to be nearby, but the ore minerals first had to be concentrated by way of a molten mass of magma.
Research carried out at Louisiana State University found different types of volcanic materials around volcanoes in Elysium Mons. This showed that Mars can have a magma evolution. This leads to the possibility of finding useful minerals for a future human population on Mars."
Molten rock on Mars
The presence of many huge volcanoes on Mars shows that large areas were very hot in the past. Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the solar system; Ceraunius Tholus, one of its smaller volcanoes, nears the height of Earth's Mount Everest.
Lava flow, as seen by THEMIS. Note the shape of the edges.
There is strong evidence for much more widespread sources of heat in the form of dikes, which indicate that magma traveled under the ground. Dikes take the shape of walls and cut across rock layers. In some cases, dikes on Mars have become exposed by erosion.
Possible dike in Syrtis Major quadrangle as seen by HiRISE under the HiWish program
Dikes in Arabia, as seen by HiRISE, under the HiWish program. These straight features may indicate where valuable ore deposits may be found by future colonists. Scale bar is 500 meters.
Possible dike in Thaumasia quadrangle, as seen by HiRISE under the HiWish program. Dikes may have deposited valuable minerals.
Possible dikes in Oxia Palus quadrangle, as seen by HiRISE under HiWish program
Possible dike, as seen by HiRISE under the HiWish program. Image located in Iapygia quadrangle.
Dike near the crater Huygens shows up as a narrow dark line running from upper left to lower right, as seen by THEMIS.
Dikes as seen by HiRISE under the HiWish program. An image in the Nilosyrtis region, in Casius quadrangle.
Large areas of Mars contain troughs, called fossa, which are classified as grabens by geologists. They stretch thousands of miles out from volcanoes. It is believed that dikes helped with the formation of grabens. Many, maybe most, of the grabens had dikes under them. One would expect dikes and other igneous intrusions on Mars because geologists believe that the amount of liquid rock that moved under the ground is more than what we see on the top in the form of volcanoes and lava flows.
On Earth, vast volcanic landscapes are called large igneous provinces (LIPs); such places are sources of nickel, copper, titanium, iron, platinum, palladium, and chromium. Mars's Tharsis region, which contains a group of giant volcanoes, is considered to be a LIP.
Heat from impacts
Besides heat generated by molten rock, Mars has had much heat produced when asteroids impacted its surface making giant craters. The area around a large impact may take hundreds of thousands of years to cool.
During that time, ice in the ground will melt, heat, dissolve minerals, then deposit them in cracks or faults that were produced with the impact. Studies on the earth have documented that cracks are produced and that secondary minerals veins are filled in the cracks. Images from satellites orbiting Mars have detected cracks near impact craters. Areas of aqueous and low-grade thermal alteration have been found by the Opportunity Rover on the rim of Endeavour crater. These are found near joints and fractures that allowed deep fluid circulation which caused chemical and thermal alteration of the rocks. So, the area around martian craters may contain a variety of minerals that were produced as an indirect result of an impact.
Heat from impacts results from several processes. Immediately after an impact, there is a rebound off the floor which causes hotter rocks to be uplifted to the surface. However, most of the heat comes from the kinetic energy that is produced during the impact. This enormous heat creates several useful products that may start forming early and then continue for some time. These are called "epigenetic deposits." Circulation of hot mineral-rich fluids in the fractures from the impact cause hydrothermalism. Important examples are the Cu-Ni sulfides at the Sudbury Igneous Complex in Canada . For a number of years, these ores from the Sudbury area had a value of $2 billion each year. The Sudbury formation has provided us with ores of zinc, copper, gold, and lead.
Strong evidence for hydrothermalism was reported by a team of researchers studying Auki Crater. This crater contains ridges that may have been produced after fractures formed with an impact. Using instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter they found the minerals Smectite, Silica, Zeolite, Serpentine, Carbonate, and Chlorite that are common in impact-induced hydrothermal systems on Earth. There is other evidence of post-impact hydrothermal systems on Mars from other scientists who studied other Martian craters.
The surface of Mars contains abundant evidence of a wetter climate in the past along with ice frozen in the ground today; therefore it is quite possible that hydrothermal systems could be set up from impact heat. NASA's Mars Odyssey actually measured the distribution of ice from orbit with a gamma ray spectrometer. So, in the past, much water could have been available to circulate in cracks and deposit new minerals. This process, called hydrothermal alteration has been found in a meteorite from Mars. Research, published in February 2011, detailed the discovery of clay minerals, serpentine, and carbonate in the veins of a Nakhlite martian meteorite. The Phoenix lander, whose rocket engine blast actually exposed a layer of ice, watched ice melt (the ice disappeared by sublimation).
Because 30% of the roughly 180 impact craters on Earth contain minerals or oil and gas, it seems that the cratering promotes the development of natural resources  Some of the ores produced from impact-related effects on Earth include ores of iron, uranium, gold, copper, and nickel. It is estimated that the value of materials mined from impact structures is 5 billion dollars/year just for North America.
Direct evidence for useful materials
It has for some time been accepted by the scientific community that a group of meteorites came from Mars. As such, they represent actual samples of the planet and have been analyzed on Earth by the best equipment available. In these meteorites, called SNCs, many important elements have been detected. Magnesium, Aluminium, Titanium, Iron, and Chromium are relatively common in them. In addition, lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, niobium, molybdenum, lanthanum, europium, tungsten, and gold have been found in trace amounts. It is quite possible that in some places these materials may be concentrated enough to be mined economically.
The Mars landers Viking I, Viking II, Pathfinder, Opportunity Rover, and Spirit Rover identified aluminium, iron, magnesium, and titanium in the Martian soil. Opportunity found small structures, named "blueberries" which were found to be rich in hematite, a major ore of iron. These blueberries could easily be gathered up and reduced to metallic iron that could be used to make steel.
In December 2011, Opportunity Rover discovered a vein of gypsum sticking out of the soil. Tests confirmed that it contained calcium, sulfur, and water. The mineral gypsum is the best match for the data. It likely formed from mineral-rich water moving through a crack in the rock. The vein, called "Homestake," is in Mars' Meridiani plain. Homestake is in a zone where the sulfate-rich sedimentary bedrock of the plains meets older, volcanic bedrock exposed at the rim of Endeavour crater.
Heat Shield Rock was the first meteorite ever identified on another planet. It is 93% iron.
Dark sand dunes are common on the surface of Mars. Their dark tone is due to the volcanic rock called basalt. The basalt dunes are believed to contain the minerals chromite, magnetite, and ilmenite. Since the wind has gathered them together, they do not even have to be mined, merely scooped up. These minerals could supply future colonists with chromium, iron, and titanium.
Future detection for ores on Mars
Theoretically, ore resources exist on Mars. Moreover, sensitive equipment can predict where to look for them, such as around craters and near volcanic regions. As more images are gathered, more information will be gathered which will help to better map the locations of smaller structures, such as dikes, that indicate intrusive (under the surface) igneous activity. Later, flying uncrewed craft with gravity and magnetic measuring devices will be able to determine the exact locations of mineral deposits.
- Cordell, B. 1984. A Preliminary Assessment of Martian Natural Resource Potential. The Case For Mars II.
- Clark, B. 1984. Chemistry of the Martian Surface: Resources for the Manned Exploration of Mars, in The Case For Mars. P. Boston, ed. American Astronautical Society. Univelt Inc. San Diego, CA
- West, M., J. Clarke. 2010. Potential martian mineral resources: Mechanisms and terrestrial analogs. Planetary and Space Science 58, 574–582.ResearchGate
- Larry O'Hanlon (February 22, 2010). "Mining Mars? Where's Ore?". Discovery News. http://news.discovery.com/space/mars-prospecting-ores-gold.html.
- Namowitx, S. and D. Stone. 1975. Earth Science: The World We Live In. American Book Company. NY, NY.
- "Igneous Geochemistry". https://home.wlu.edu/~kuehns/geo311/f09/igneous6.pdf.
- Hsu, Jeremy (June 14, 2010). "What Are Rare Earth Elements?". Live Science. http://www.livescience.com/technology/Rare-Earth-Elements-100614.html.
- Sorrell, C. 1973. Rocks and Minerals. Golden Press. NY, NY.
- Patterson, Megan Elizabeth (2003). "Hydrothermal Alterations and the Formation of Metal Ores in the Sierra Nevada's". https://sierra.sitehost.iu.edu/papers/2003/Patterson.html.
- "California Gold Quartz Veins". Nevada Outback Gems. http://nevada-outback-gems.com/prospect/gold_specimen/California_quartz_veins.htm.
- Laimin, Zhu (1998). "A study on the relations between Ultrabasic Dikes and fine disseminated gold deposits in southwestern Guizhou Province as exemplified by Zimudang large-sized gold deposit". Chinese Journal of Geochemistry 17 (4): 362–371. doi:10.1007/bf02837988.
- "Miranda Gold Corp. - Home Page - Fri Sep 28, 2018". http://www.mirandagold.com/s/CoalCanyon.asp.
- Gries, John Paul (1996). Roadside Geology of South Dakota. ISBN 0-87842-338-9.
- Pirajno, F. 2004. Metallogeny in the Capricorn Orogen, Western Australia, the result of multiple ore-forming processes. Precambrian Research: 128. 411-439
- David Susko, Suniti Karunatillake, Gayantha Kodikara, J. R. Skok, James Wray, Jennifer Heldmann, Agnes Cousin, Taylor Judice. "A record of igneous evolution in Elysium, a major martian volcanic province. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 43177 doi:10.1038/srep43177
- "Mars more Earth-like than moon-like: New Mars research shows evidence of a complex mantle beneath the Elysium volcanic province". ScienceDaily. February 24, 2017. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170224092548.htm.
- "Characteristics and Origin of Giant Radiating Dyke Swarms". MantlePlumes.org. http://www.mantleplumes.org/GiantRadDykeSwarms.html.
- Head, J. et al. 2006. The Huygens-Hellas giant dike system on Mars: Implications for Late Noachian-Early Hesperian volcanic resurfacing and climate evolution. Geology: 34. 285-288.
- Goudy, C. and R. Schultz. 2005. Dike intrusions beneath grabens south of Arsia Mons, Mars. Geophysical Research Letters: 32. L05201
- Mege, D. et al. 2003. Volcanic rifting at Martian grabens. Journal of Geophysical Research: 108.
- Wilson, L. and J. Head. 2002. Tharsis-radial graben systems as the surface manifestation of plume-related dike intrusion complexes: Models and implications. Journal of Geophysical Research: 107.
- Crisp, J. 1984. Rates of magma emplacement and volcanic output. J. Volcano. Geotherm. Res: 20. 177-211.
- Ernst, R. 2007. large Igneous Provinces in Canada Through Time and Their Metallogenic Potential. Mineral Deposits of Canada: A Synthesis of Major Deposit-Types, District Metallogeny, the Evolution of Geological Provinces, and Exploration Methods: Geological Association of Canada, Mineral Division, Special Publication No. 5. 929-937.
- Grieve, Richard; Masaitis, V. L. (1994). "The Economic Potential of Terrestrial Impact Craters". International Geology Review 36 (2): 105–151. doi:10.1080/00206819409465452. Bibcode: 1994IGRv...36..105G. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238402048.
- Grieve, R., V. Masaitis. 1994. The Economic Potential of Terrestrial Impact Craters. International Geology Review: 36, 105-151.
- Osinski, G, J. Spray, and P. Lee. 2001. Impact-induced hydrothermal activity within the Haughton impact structure, Arctic Canada: Generation of a transient, warm, wet oasis. Meteoritics & Planetary Science: 36. 731-745
- Pirajno, F. 2000. Ore Deposits and Mantle Plumes. Kluwer Academic Publishers. Dordrecht, The Netherlands
- Head, J. and J. Mustard. 2006. Breccia Dikes and Crater-Related Faults in Impact Craters on Mars: Erosion and Exposure on the Floor of a 75-km Diameter Crater at the Dichotomy Boundary. Special Issue on Role of Volatiles and Atmospheres on Martian Impact Craters Meteoritics & Planetary Science
- Arvidson, R., et al. 2015. Recent Results from the Opportunity Rover's Exploration of Endeavour Crater, Mars. 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. 1118.pdf
- Crumpler, L., R. Arvidson, W. Farrand, M. Golombek, J. Grant, D. Ming, D. Mittlefehldt, T. Parker. 2015. Opportunity In Situ Geologic Context of Aqueous Alteration Along Offsets in the Rim of Endeavour Crater. 46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. 2209.pdf
- Grieve R., A. Therriault. 2000 Vredefort, Sudbury, Chicxulub: Three of a kind? Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 28: 305-338 Grieve
- Carrozzo, F. et al. 2017. Geology and mineralogy of the Auki Crater, Tyrrhena Terra, Mars: A possible post-impact-induced hydrothermal system. 281: 228-239
- Loizeau, D. et al. 2012. Characterization of hydrated silicate-bearing outcrops in Tyrrhena Terra, Mars: implications to the alteration history of Mars. Icarus: 219, 476-497.
- Naumov, M. 2005. Principal features of impact-generated hydrothermal circulation systems: mineralogical and geochemical evidence. Geofluids: 5, 165-184.
- Ehlmann, B., et al. 2011. Evidence for low-grade metamorphism, hydrothermal alteration, and diagenesis on Mars from phyllosilicate mineral assemblages. Clays Clay Miner: 59, 359-377.
- Osinski, G. et al. 2013. Impact-generated hydrothermal systems on Earth and Mars. Icarus: 224, 347-363.
- Schwenzer, S., D. Kring. 2013. Alteration minerals in impact-generated hydrothermal systems – Exploring host rock variability. Icarus: 226, 487-496.
- Marzo, G., et al. 2010. Evidence for Hesperian impact-induced hydrothermalism on Mars. Icarus: 667-683.
- Mangold, N., et al. 2012. Hydrothermal alteration in a late Hesperian impact crater on Mars. 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science. #1209.
- Tornabene, L., et al. 2009. Parautochthonous megabreccias and possible evidence of impact-induced hydrothermal alteration in Holden crater, Mars. 40th LPSC. #1766.
- "Odyssey Finds Water Ice in Abundance Under Mars' Surface". NASA. May 28, 2002. https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey/newsroom/pressreleases/20020528a.html.
- "Rare Meteorites Reveal Mars Collision Caused Water Flow". 2 February 2011. http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=32629.
- H. G. Changela and J. C. Bridges. Alteration assemblages in the nakhlites: Variation with depth on Mars. Meteoritics & Planetary Science, 2011 45(12):1847-1867 doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.2010.01123.x
- Rayl, A. J. S. (2008-06-21). "Phoenix Scientists Confirm Water-Ice on Mars". The Planetary Society. Planetary Society. http://www.planetary.org/news/2008/0621_Phoenix_Scientists_Confirm_WaterIce_on.html.
- "NASA - NASA Phoenix Mars Lander Confirms Frozen Water". http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/phoenix/news/phoenix-20080620.html.
- "Oldest known impact crater found". 29 June 2012. http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=37633.
- Hugh H. Kieffer (1992). Mars. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0-8165-1257-7. https://books.google.com/books?id=NoDvAAAAMAAJ. Retrieved 7 March 2011.
- Fairen, A. et al. 2009. Nature: 459. 401-404.
- Squyres, et al. 2004. The Opportunity Rover's Athena science investigation at Meridiani Planum. Science: 306. 1598-1703.
- Rodionov, D. et al. 2005. An iron-nickel meteorite on Meridiani Planum: observations by MER Opportunity's Mossbauer Spectrometer, European Geosciences Union in Geophysical Research Abstracts: 7. 10242
- Yen, A., et al. Nickel on Mars: constraints on meteoritic material at the surface. Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets: 111. E12S11
- Landis, G. 2009. Meteoritic steel as a construction resource on Mars. Acta Astronautica: 64. 183-187.
- "NASA -
NASA Mars Rover Finds Mineral Vein Deposited by Water". http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/dec/HQ_11-403_Mars_Rover_Gypsum.html.
- Ruzicka, G. et al. 2001. Comparative geochemistry of basalts from the Moon, Earth, HED asteroid, and Mars: implications for the origin of the Moon. Geochimica et Cosmochimica ACTA: 65. 979-997.
- West, M. and J. Clarke. 2010. Potential martian mineral resources: Mechanisms and terrestrial analogs. Planetary and Space Science: 58. 574-582. ResearchGate
Original source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ore resources on Mars. Read more