site.btaGold, Precious Metal Deposits Occur in Bulgarian Antarctic Base Area - Geologist Ralitsa Sabeva
A number of metals, including lead, zinc, copper and even gold have been found in the area around the Bulgarian Antarctic base of St. Kliment Ohridski on the island of Livingston, Dr Ralitsa Sabeva of the Department of Mineralogy, Petrology and Mineral Resources at the Faculty of Geology and Geography of Sofia University said in a BTA interview. She is among the researchers included in the ongoing 32nd Bulgarian Antarctic expedition.
At the Bulgarian Base on Livingston Island, Dr Sabeva is studying the resources in ore veins.
How many years has this project been going on and what minerals have been discovered so far? Is gold the most valuable among them?
“It is a two-year research project and this is the second year of fieldwork. Last year was the start, samples were taken and now we have to complete this research,” said Dr Sabeva.
"Along with gold, usually goes silver, and let's not forget the so called ‘rare earths’, which are very sought-after at the moment and are extremely important for the development of technology. These are also found [in the area of the Bulgarian base on Livingston Island], and they are usually seen as impurities in ore minerals. For example, these are tellurium, selenium, manganese, cadmium, molybdenum, which are very important for the development of technology, as well as for alloying steels," said Ralitsa Sabeva.
“This project follows up on a previous project in which I worked together with a colleague of mine, also from the Faculty of Geology and Geography, Stefan Velev. The first tests we did with him established the presence of gold, or the first data on gold. So we are continuing these studies to look into its distribution and quality, and generally get more information,” Sabeva explained.
"And let's not forget that it is geologists who built the base and made the Bulgarian Antarctic dream come true. I am talking here about the pioneers in geological research and, of course, Prof. Christo Pimpirev. I had the honour and privilege to have him as my teacher and mentor, and now we are working together in Antarctica", said Dr. Sabeva.
What is the quantity and quality of the gold found at the Bulgarian Antarctic base?
"The gold was first detected under a microscope and then chemical analyses were done to establish its quality. Two types of gold were found: one is the so-called native gold, or pure gold, which has no impurities, and the other is electrum gold, which has a high silver content in it," explained Dr Sabeva.
Asked about the amount of the gold discovered on Livingston, she said that there is a moratorium until 2048 on the mining of mineral resources in Antarctica until 2048. “To establish the size of a metal deposit, one needs to do systematic studies over a certain area. Some of the best research is done via drilling which is prohibited at this point. So it is still early days to talk about quantity," explained Dr Sabeva.
One of the main goals of the 32nd Bulgarian Antarctic expedition is to complete the construction of a new research lab on Livingston Island. How will this lab help the work of geologists?
“Having a laboratory will be invaluable for all researchers who will be working there, especially for the primary processing of the samples,” said Dr Sabeva.
"For geologists, it is unnecessary to waste time doing microscopic preparations there, or doing microscopic studies. Our main task there is to be in the field and collect field data and specimens. One of the important things that can be accomplished in this lab is to have a cutting machine to cut down the volume of samples, because I came back from the last expedition with two or three barrels full of rocks: specimens, rocks, ore. A lab will allow me to reduce the volume of samples. I can see what is interesting and what is important so I can take it with me to Bulgaria.," the geologist said.
An exhibition titled "The rock and mineral diversity of Antarctica" opened at the Museum of Mineralogy, Petrology and Mineral Resources of Sofia University at the end of May 2023. Dr Sabeva was one of the participants.
She told BTA that she put together the exhibition together with her fellow researcher Chief Assistant Professor Stefan Velev on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Geology and Geography Faculty.
"We picked out some of the most interesting rock varieties and minerals, and created an Antarctic exhibition that would be permanent and people could learn about this Antarctic rock diversity. There are ores, different types of ore minerals that contain the metals I mentioned a while back: chalcopyrite, pyrite, galena, sphalerite. Here is also shown a sample in which gold was found - you can see a microscopic preparation here. And, generally, it is a large variety of rocks and minerals, and everyone is welcome to see the rock diversity of Antarctica here," the geologist explained.
Dr Sabeva said that the 32nd Antarctic expedition will be her third. “Previously, I participated in the 28th expedition, as well as last year’s 31st expedition, which was also the first voyage of the Bulgarian naval research ship to Antarctica,” said she.
She said that a normal day in Antarctica for her would be all work. "Usually the day’s work is planned from the night before: where we will go for fieldwork, who will have what scientific and field tasks. All this depends much on the weather conditions. I work in several parts of the island, and there are adjacent bays that I work in that are accessible by boat. It's very important what the sea is like, whether we can use the boat and whether there is ice flow, and whether this research can be done on a given day," Sabeva explained.
The focus of Bulgarian scientists in Antarctica is mainly work, she said. "But there are also purely housekeeping jobs that are very important because we live there and we have to have breakfast, we have to have dinner, we have to wash," the geologist noted.
What is the one most important thing about Antarctica that Bulgarian people need to know?
It is something that has already become a cliché, but is a fact: that Antarctica is the most pristine, clean and beautiful continent, the natural laboratory of the world, where very important research can really be carried out on what is awaiting us in the future, on what we are leaving to the next generations. And certainly it makes one look into themselves. This is the continent that allows us look at the world and life in a different way, said Dr Sabeva.
Dr Ralitsa Sabeva is a Chief Assistant Professor at the Department of Mineralogy, Petrology and Mineral Resources at the Faculty of Geology and Geography with the St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia. She earned her bachelor's degree in Geology in 2008, her Master’s degree in Geochemistry in 2019 and a doctoral degree in Geology and Exploration of Mineral Resources in 2015.
Her scientific interests include economic geology, mineralogy, ore mineralogy, metalogenesis and polar studies, among other fields.
During the 32nd Bulgarian expedition to Antarctica, which started on November 8, 2023, the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) is publishing interviews with Antarctic researchers. The Bulgaria-Antarctica BTA's Log again provides coverage of the voyage of the Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii to Antarctica and back and its stay there, as it did during the 31st expedition between December 27, 2022 and May 2, 2023. Back then, only BTA had a correspondent, Daily News Editor Konstantin Karagyozov, who covered the 127-day expedition with text, video and photos during the entire voyage (including across the Atlantic in both directions) and throughout the stay in Antarctica. In June 2023, BTA published in Bulgarian and in English an issue of its LIK magazine "To Antarctica and Back under the Bulgarian Flag" dedicated to the historic expedition.
Again, all of BTA's information on the Bulgarian scientific research in Antarctica and the support provided by the Bulgarian naval research vessel, as well as on the other activities at the Bulgarian Antarctic Base, will be available to all media outlets in Bulgarian and in English on BTA's website in the Bulgaria - Antarctica: BTA's Log section.
BTA has a National Press Club on board the ship and is planning to open a National Press Club at the Bulgarian Antarctic Base on Livingston Island.