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Analytical Fingerprint of Wolframite Ore Concentrates

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Ongoing violent conflicts in Central Africa are fueled by illegal mining and trading of tantalum, tin, and tungsten ores. The credibility of document‐based traceability systems can be improved by an analytical fingerprint applied as an independent method to confirm or doubt the documented origin of ore minerals. Wolframite (Fe,Mn)WO4 is the most important ore mineral for tungsten and is subject to artisanal mining in Central Africa. Element concentrations of wolframite grains analyzed by laser ablation‐inductively coupled plasma‐mass spectrometry are used to establish the analytical fingerprint. The data from ore concentrate samples are multivariate, not normal or log‐normal distributed. The samples cannot be regarded as representative aliquots of a population. Based on the Kolmogorov–Smirnov distance, a measure of similarity between a sample in question and reference samples from a database is determined. A decision criterion is deduced to recognize samples which do not originate from the declared mine site.
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Keywords: analytical fingerprint; decision criterion; forensic science; laser ablation‐inductively coupled plasma‐mass spectrometry; origin of conflict minerals; wolframite

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2017

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