Understanding geological lithospheric processes
***While the museum building will close its doors mid-2013 for
renovation, scientific research will continue at Tervuren.***
We study the building processes at the origin of the African continent during the Precambrian period (> 542 million years ago) to the Cenozoic period (volcanic activity from 35 million years ago to the present day) at local and global scale.
The understanding of these processes requires the ability to date and determine the origin of the rocks and minerals. To do this, we measure chemical and isotopic compositions of samples collected in the field, tracers of their geological evolution.
These measurements are carried out in the RMCA but also with a mass spectrometer jointly managed with the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and in collaboration with Belgian and foreign laboratories.
Our work focuses on the cratonic boundaries in Saharan Africa. Cratons are ancient and rigid regions of the lithosphere (the external solid layer of the globe). During intercontinental collisions, they can be tectonically reactivated and invaded by magma. When this occurs, they however preserve earlier geological stages which make them particularly effective in recording the geological evolution of a region. This evolution, called metacratonic, favour appearance of mineralisations, in response to successive enrichments.
Research activities include
- Study of the metacratonic evolution of Saharan Africa at the end of the Precambrian period (about 600 million years ago) and of sub-recent volcanic activity resulting from metacratonic structures and from the ongoing collision between the European and African continents.
- Study of the recurrence of major geological events which affected the southern boundary of the Kasai craton 600, 1,350, 2,000 and 2,700 million years ago which is at the origin of the complex structure of this region and probably also of the exceptional mineral wealth of the neighbouring Katanga.
We carry out these activities in close collaboration with African scientists from concerned countries.