Subjects and Projects

Natural resources in minerals and geomaterials

Mine in the D.R. Congo. Bengobiri-Bunza in the Maniema province.Given the unprecedented growth of the human population over the past century, as well as the related increase in demand for natural resources, it is evident that knowledge concerning the geology of natural resources is a strategic topic. Our research is therefore focused on the mineralogical and geochemical study of mineral resources and geomaterials. An important research topic is the characterization of the “primary” mineralogical and geochemical characteristics of different critical mineral resources, which allows unravelling the formation conditions of these resources and to reconstruct the geodynamic setting during mineralization. The study area is mainly Central Africa (D. R. Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania), which is famous for its wealth of natural resources that are often highly important for the western high-tech industry (e. g. Nb-Ta-Li-W-Sn-Au-REE and Cu-Co). This research is based on the combination of diverse structural, mineralogical, petrological and geochemical techniques. In addition, recycling of resources will become increasingly important for the western industry. Therefore, a second research topic focusses on the mineralogical and geochemical characterization of secondary resources, mainly waste products of industrial processes. This material often contains trace elements that are of high value, yet their presence has been neglected in the past. A third research topic is the mineralogy and geochemistry of phyllosilicates. Phyllosilicates are one of the most abundant constituents of the Earth's surface and have an important influence on various physical (e.g. swelling, plasticity, shear strength, porosity) and chemical (e.g. buffering and exchange capacities, pH, electrical conductivity) properties. The applications of phyllosilicates and their derivatives are many and varied, and the suitability of clays for a particular application  (soil functions, environmental processes, ceramic products and engineering processes) is determined by the properties of their composing phyllosilicates.


Nikon Ni-E Eclipse Motorized microscopeThe research team Thermochronology in MinPet uses (mainly low-T) thermochronometers, i.e. radiometric dating techniques sensitive within a specific (paleo)temperature window and applicable to specific mineral phases within the rocks of interest.  The fission-track dating method applied to apatite (AFT) is the cornerstone in the methodological arsenal and a fully equipped laboratory is installed. We also use the fission-track technique on zircon and titanite for example. Apatite and zircon are also targeted for (U-Th-Sm)/He and U/Pb dating. 40Ar/39Ar is a method we sometimes apply as well in collaborative research. The lab has traditionally been very much involved in methods development and calibration with respect to AFT dating, but in recent years, geological applications have been the main focal point. In these applications, multi-method thermochronology is used in order to elucidate the thermo-tectonic history of chosen study areas in Siberia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and the South Atlantic passive margins. Field work with sample collection, and associated structural geologic observations and petrography and geochemistry are always an important component in our approach.

Luminescence dating

OSL equipmentThe MinPet Luminescence Research Group focuses on fundamental and applied research into the use of thermally and optically stimulated luminescence signals to resolve chronometric issues pertaining to the Late Quaternary. Since the lab was founded (1992-1993), it has been the only state-of-the-art luminescence dating laboratory in Belgium. It has a strong tradition of collaborating and interacting with people from a range of disciplines (earth-sciences, archaeology, physics, chemistry, history and arts, languages…).

The laboratory’s luminescence chronometric investigations concern (loose) sediments from a wide variety of depositional environments and geographic localities, in order to improve our understanding of past climate and environmental change, neotectonic activity, human occupation and migration, and man-environment interactions. In recent years, research efforts were expanded to include the potential of luminescence techniques for unravelling the thermal and light-exposure history of consolidated rocks.

MinPet projects


CoBraCoBra Project

The CoBra (D.R. Congo - Brazil) thermochronology project studies the thermo-tectonic history of the South Atlantic passive margins, applying low-temperature thermochronometers. The PhD researcher on this project is Gerben Van Ranst. 

TeReSA Project

The Tectonic Reconstruction of the western part of Southeast Asia on geological time scales is investigated by PhD student Simon Nachtergaele. Apatite fission track and apatite (U-Th)/He dating is used to constrain the timing of stress propagation in the upper crust caused by far-field tectonic effects.

Zonian Forest Project

Fueling the Furnace, an interdisciplinary study of forest soils as geochronological archives by PhD researcher Nasrin Karimi Moayed. Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) is the main applied method to improve our understanding of the potential of woodland soils as archives of human-landscape interaction.

KABReCore Project

In this project we will provide a Reconstruction and Characterisation of ore-related granites in the Karagwe-Ankole Belt (KAB) of the Great Lakes area, by means of geochemistry and geochronology. This research is performed by PhD student Shana De Clercq.

Chinese Tienshan and Junggar Project

The Chinese Tienshan and Junggar orogenic collage is composed of a series of tectonic units that formed during a complex evolution during the Palaeozoic. This project aims to explore the crustal cooling history of this area from the initial magma emplacement to its final exhumation, by means of multiple high- to low-temperature thermochronometers. This project is carried out by PhD student Zhiyuan He.



MinPet partners

The Laboratory for Mineralogy and Petrology sees national and international multidisciplinary collaboration as an important aspect. Besides of groups within our host institution, we work closely together on our projects with partner institutions in Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia, Russia, Brazil, China and Thailand.

Royal Museum for Central AfricaRoyal Museum for Central Africa

Tervuren, Belgium


Royal Belgian Institute of Natural SciencesRoyal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

Brussels, Belgium


Belgian Nuclear Research CentreBelgian Nuclear Research Centre

Mol, Belgium



KU LeuvenKU Leuven

Leuven, Belgium


The University of AdelaideThe University of Adelaide

Adelaide, Australia


University College LondonUniversity College London

London, United Kingdom


Technical University of DenmarkTechnical University of Denmark

Roskilde, Denmark


Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of SciencesSiberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Novosibirsk, Russia


Federal University of Minas GeraisFederal University of Minas Gerais

Belo Horizonte, Brazil


TU Bergakademie FreibergTU Bergakademie Freiberg

Freiberg, Germany


Chulalongkorn UniversityChulalongkorn University

Bangkok, Thailand


Nanjing UniversityNanjing University

Nanjing, China


Agentschap Erfgoed VlaanderenFlanders Heritage Agency

Brussels, Belgium


Gate ArchaeologyGATE Archaeology

Ghent, Belgium