Charting lithospheric deposits

The study aims to map and understand 4D lithospheric architecture of Neoarchaean to Paleoproterozoic terranes and its control on mineral systems.

UWA Professor Campbell McCuaig, director for the Centre for Exploration Targeting (CET), is part of an international team comprising 11 partner companies, 11 geoscience agencies and 11 research institutions hoping to better understand the history of the Earth’s crust and upper mantle and the behaviour of mineral deposits.

Professor McCuaig says humans are good at finding ore bodies close to the surface but have trouble predicting where the next one is. “Once you start looking under the top layer of crust, traditional techniques for mineral exploration are challenged. If you sample something on the surface you’re not necessarily sampling what’s below.

“The key question is: where are you going to go drill?”

The Yilgarn Craton – an expanse of nickel (Ni) and gold (Au) rich land in Western Australia which includes the goldfields – shows clustered areas of Ni and Au in the lithosphere, first formed 2.6 billion years ago, while other areas are bare of minerals.

Prof McCuaig says the mapping of 4D lithospheric architecture will shed light on the reasons for this clustering of mineral deposits and give companies the opportunity to concentrate their exploration efforts.

“We’ve come up with an innovative way of looking at crustal architecture that controls the location of clusters of mineral deposits,” he says.
The research commenced in January 2011 and is mapping WA, the Northern Territory and West Africa.

Source: ScienceNetworkWA

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