End of September 2023, the four scientists Franziska Wilke, Bettina Strauch, Martin Zimmer, and Simona Regenspurg from the German GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ), embarked on a sampling field trip in Malawi to collect gas, water, and rock samples within the project’s Work Package 2, which investigates critical raw materials (CRM) in the alkaline geothermal systems of the East African Rift valley.

Dr. Kondwani Gondwe, a geologist from Mzuzu University and local expert on the geothermal situation in Malawi, guided the expedition. Interestingly, despite the relatively high geothermal potential, no geothermal wells have been drilled so far. Hot springs are only utilised as local washing places.

The sampling campaign progressed with approximately 20 sampling sites from the Karonga area in the north of Malawi, along Lake Malawi, down to the southern part of Malawi, near Blantyre. The group collected water for rare earth element analyses and gases to determine the helium content. Additionally, rock samples were taken to gain insight into the source of potential critical raw materials carried by the upwelling geothermal fluids.

In addition to the adventurous and successful sampling mission, the CRM-geothermal scientists were invited by the vice chancellor of Mzuzu University to present their project work. In Lilongwe, the CRM-geothermal project was introduced to local mining and energy authorities, and options for further collaborations were discussed.

Thanks to the help and support from locals who eagerly showed us the stony or non-existing pathways to the often hidden sampling spots, the mission was very successful.