A Namibian Interlude

I have recently returned from a short work placement with SRK Consulting (UK) Ltd, a mining consultancy company. I joined a team who went to Namibia to carry out geological mapping and geochemical sampling as part of a resource exploration project. The area of interest, just south of Usakos (a “town” to the northwest of capital Windhoek), is being explored for economic ore mineralisation, particularly uranium-bearing deposits and other rare earth elements. Mining is the largest contributor to the country’s economy and Namibia is one of the world’s main producers of uranium. The field area is mainly farmland and game hunting reserves and the landscape is flat plains with sporadic hills and at-the-time dry river beds.

P1.1: Field area in Namibia

I carried out 1:250,000-scale mapping (1cm = 250m), structural and textural observations of the rocks, took measurements and sampled the present rock types and mineralisation. Unfortunately we were not able to gain access to all of the mapping area so the job was cut short and postponed. I still enjoyed the trip, I gained off-road, 4WD driving experience, learnt more about mineralisation and saw some of the largest crystals I’ve ever seen – one was almost larger than me! The opportunity also provided me with industry experience, a chance to make links with a UK company and generally improve my future employability should I decide to go into the exploration and mining industry following my PhD. Walking around some foreign land making a map is my perfect job

P1.2: A very very large tourmaline crystal

P1.3: A very large feldspar crystal (to the right of me and at 45 degrees)

As we couldn’t do as much work as we wanted, I also spent some time travelling round Namibia and went on safari in Etosha National Park in the north. In the south of country there is a large canyon (like the Grand Canyon in the USA) and some hot springs. To the west are stunning mountainous regions with gorges and canyons (a great drive!) and along the Atlantic coast are desert environments with some of the largest sand dunes in the world: the northern stretch of coast, called the Skeleton Coast, is subject to dense ocean fogs and is littered by hundreds of shipwrecks and the southern coastline, called the Diamond Coast, is a heavily restricted area!

P1.4: Fish River Canyon, southern Namibia


About Alex Quas-Cohen

I’m Alex, I’m 26 and I heart rocks and minerals! I am a PhD student at the University of Manchester. My supervisors are Dr Giles Droop, Dr Ray Burgess and Prof. Chris J Ballentine from the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences and Dr Simon Cuthbert from the School of Sciences at the University of the West of Scotland. To describe my interest succinctly, I would say that I am most curious about Earth system science – how does the planet work? What has happened over its lifetime? And why? The first thing I remember wanting to be ‘when I grow up’ was a detective and so I like to think of myself as rock detective. During the course of this blog I will tell you about the research I am carrying out for my PhD project and explain some of the analytical techniques that I use to do it.
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