Demand for nickel is on the rise, thanks to the EV battery industry. Nickel laterite ore deposits currently account for 60% of global nickel supply and will continue to be the dominant source in the future. Nickel laterites are intensely weathered regoliths with one or more horizons containing exploitable reserves of nickel. There are two types of laterite ore: oxide and silicate. Oxide has Fe and Mg that leach into the silicate type, while silicate consists of hydrous Mg-silicate minerals. For nickel exploration, the nickel laterite deposits to focus on is Fe-Serpentine.
Formed during chemical weathering/lower temperature alteration, Fe-Serpentine is where the majority of nickel is incorporated. This laterite deposit is concentrated through surface weathering reactions, making it a valuable proxy of nickel. Distinguishing between Fe-Serpentine and Mg-Serpentine is vital to exploration to ensure that you are heading toward nickel. Typically, samples are gathered from the field and sent to a lab for chemical analysis to differentiate between Fe and Mg. This method costs precious time and money. A quicker and easier solution to recognize the two is to use a high-resolution NIR (Near-Infrared) spectrometer right in the field. These instruments allow users to instantly identify which type of Serpentine is present and adjust exploration toward nickel accordingly.
Using the oreXpertTM, the only ultra-high-resolution spectrometer on the market, you can quickly identify the high iron content in the Fe-Serpentine, as well as distinguish the Mg-OH doublet features of the Mg-Serpentine. The oreXpert shows key Fe2+ and Fe3+ features at 420nm, 480nm, and 780nm, with the doublet appearing at 2324nm and 2340nm. It is important to note that this doublet feature is not visible when using a standard resolution spectrometer.