Scandivanadium will finally start drilling. Their first location is south of Lyby, a small hamlet in the central part of Skåne, which belongs to Hörby commune. Five cores will be drilled by the company DrillCon from Nora as part of Scandivanadium’s ‘maiden drill campaign’. (Sorry, Scandivanadium – but what does a ‘maiden’ have to do with a drilling campaign?).
Scandivanadium’s goal is, as my readers may know by now, the Dictyonema Shale (or Formation or Seam), which is of lower Ordovician age and forms part of the Alum Shale. Scandivanadium would like to target the Dictyonema Shale because of its known high content of Vanadium, a metal used for so-called Vanadium-Redox-Flow-Batteries (or VRFBs). These type of batteries allow storage of for example wind and sun energy for up to one year. By mining Vanadium in Skåne, which is Scandivanadium’s ultimate goal, the company will – as they write in the numerous postings – contribute to a sustainable future with green/fossil-free energy.
However, it is probably a long way until mining for Vanadium will start in Skåne, if it ever will start. Mining the Alum Shale is not a straight forward undertaking, because the rocks are known to contain a range of hazardous metals, which easily leak into the environment when the shale is exposed to weathering. Several studies that have been made around former Alum Shale mines in southern Sweden, have clearly demonstrated this and show leakage of for example uranium.
The choice of starting drilling in Lyby was made easy for Scandivanadium since the land owner and the communal board of Hörby consented. So now drilling of the five deep drill cores with a length of up to 125 m /each will start in August and the campaign will last for approximately three weeks. It will be really interesting to see what the core material looks like and what will happen with these hundreds of meters of cored rock. How will Scandivanadium dispose of the drilled rock? Will they take it away and store it safely? Will the drill cores be made available for science? Will the drill location be left behind in a mess? What type of ‘metallurgic’ analyses will they perform? Will the holes be filled in and sealed?
I had a look at the geological map for the planned exploration area and for fun I placed the five drill locations on the geological map. As can be seen from the figure below and from the legend, the drill cores are placed in areas where rocks younger than the Dictyonema Shale are close to the surface. These rocks are covered by sediments deposited by the last ice sheet, but how thick these are, I can only guess.
According to information from well drillings, the Alum Shale (and Dictyonema Shale) can here be found at a depth of about 35 m. Even if we would assume that the rocks are covered by 50 m of glacial sediments, a core depth of 125 m seems a bit overshooting (see below).
The publication by Erlström et al. (2001) presents data for a 55 m long drill core from Lyby Mosse. Erlström et al. (2001) note that glacial sediments here had a thickness of 12.5 m, that these sediments are underlain by 17 m of Didymograptus Shale and 6 m of Komstad Limestone and that the Alum Shale formation starts at around 36 m depth. The core covered the lower Ordovician Alum Shale and the Upper Cambrian Alum Shale. However the authors did not specifically separate the Dictyonema Shale from the Alum Shale, therefore its thickness is a bit unclear. In any case it tells me that 125 m for each drill hole, as Scandivanadium write, is too much.
Drill cores are not dangerous (deep wells are for example drilled all the time) and if done correctly they will and should not harm the environment and the groundwater. These drill cores are however only the first step, since many more cores are needed to in the end determine the extension of the Vanadium-bearing seam. My guess is that the area south of Lyby, where the Alum Shale occurs is far too small to be of real future economic interest as a mine.