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MU geology professor receives NSF grant to study in Egypt

By ELIZABETH STEWART
On September 26, 2012

Aley El-Shazly, associate professor of geology at Marshall University, has received a National Science Foundation grant to study banded iron formations in Egypt.

Most banded iron formation deposits were formed before what is referred to as the great oxygenation event, which occurred around 2.5 billion years ago, El-Shazly said.

What is interesting about the Egyptian ore deposit, is that all of them were considered to be formed after this great oxygenation event.

Were trying to understand how these actually formed, the conditions under which they formed and what might have caused them to form. El-Shazly said.

The 13 banded iron formations are exposed in the eastern desert of Egypt and are scattered around an area of about 30,000 square kilometers, El-Shazly said. Studying the formation of these iron ore deposits will also help researchers understand the tectonic history of the formation of the area due to the movement of the Earths plates.

Several Marshall students and graduates have assisted El-Shazly in his research over the years including three students who have already graduated and two undergraduate students who work with him now.

Once we bring back the samples, we examine them under a microscope, identify all of the minerals and analyze the minerals using the scanning electron microscope here in the College of Science, El-Shazly said.

Were also undertaking whole rock chemical analysis with the students, as well.

El-Shazly said he hopes to take one of the undergraduate students to Egypt with him this December to map and collect samples from the banded iron formations.

I have been only once; I did the field work last March. The original plan was to have an undergraduate student accompany me on that trip; unfortunately because of the political turmoil in Egypt following the revolution in 2011, we were not able to get the permits necessary for the student in time for the trip, El-Shazly said.

Along with studying the geological and historical aspect, El-Shazly and Khalil are also looking at the potential economic benefit to the area
Were trying to approach this problem from two sides, from the economic angle and then trying to understand how it formed, El-Shazly said.

Those deposits have not been mined in Egypt and we believe they might have economic potential.

El-Shazly has also teamed up with an economic geologist and professor at the University of Alexandria, Khalil Isaac Khalil.

Elizabeth Stewart can be reached at stewart52@marshall.edu.

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