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Geochemistry of salt springs in the Southwestern Mamfe Basin and its significance to applied sedimentology

Emmanuel ESEME student laureate

°1973 Cameroon
Master's in applied geology, University of Buea, Cameroon, 2001

Geochemistry of salt springs in the Southwestern Mamfe Basin and its significance to applied sedimentology

This master’s thesis consists in a study of a number of salt springs in south-western Cameroon, in the Mamfe region. Mr Eseme has described these in physical and geochemical terms, and has valuated their industrial potential.
After having read numerous publications on this issue, Mr Eseme has relocated the subject in its regional geological setting of the Mamfe sedimentary basin, which has a thickness of over 4 km. After a critical description of the methods used (sampling type, analytical methods), Mr Eseme provides a precise description of the results obtained and an objective technical interpretation of each spring, which is essential for an industrial evaluation.
The most advanced interpretation of the results shows that these salt waters are distinct from sea water, and that they do not derive from the compaction of sediments, but rather from the dissolution of evaporites at large depth by meteoric water. These evaporites were formed by a marine incursion during a dry period in the Cretaceous Era.
Mr Eseme ends his work with an evaluation of the economic potential of the salt springs of the Mamfe basin. An easily used method, electrical conductivity, is successfully tested as a means to evaluate and survey the daily production of salt. For each spring, Mr Eseme has calculated the quantity of salt that could be recovered annually, as well as its purity, which is high: the proportion of NaCl in the dry residue is between 94.8% and 99.6%. This level of purity is excellent for industrial applications, but purification is necessary to use the salt of Mamfe as a condiment. Mr Eseme has drawn up a list of recommendations for potential users. As an additional prospective, Mr Eseme shows that the geochemistry of these salt waters indicates that the region constitutes a target for oil prospecting.
Mr Eseme’s study is well organised, well written and scientifically sound. With modest resources, Mr Eseme provides sufficient evidence in support of the development of the current traditional exploitation of the salt of Mamfe, which could well provide a boost for the development in this region. Moreover, as this salt is continually being produced, it is harmful rather than beneficial to the environment, and its industrial exploitation could easily form part of a sustainable development project.

report by Prof. J.-P. Liegeois, Isotopic Geology, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium