Minerals geoscience

The Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) studies mineral systems in Western Australia. It aims to create metallogenic models that increase the prospectivity of the State and help make exploration targeting more predictive. Collaborative projects are undertaken with academic organisations and industry. Minerals geoscience knowledge accumulated in the course of GSWA’s work is made available for the benefit of resource companies, research groups, other government agencies and the wider community. Knowledge is disseminated via GSWA's and external publications.

Gold in variscite
Secondary dendritic gold in variscite (Low Hill, Capricorn Orogen, WA). Field of view 2 mm.

Current mineral systems research

This work aims to characterise geological settings, metallogeny and alteration footprints of selected mineral system types, and develop exploration tools for area and target selection and direct detection of mineralisation.

It encompasses both empirical and conceptual studies, at regional, camp and deposit scales, and is undertaken in-house and via collaborations with other State, Federal and international partners, including mineral exploration companies. Collaborative work is extensively funded by the State Government's Exploration Incentive Scheme (EIS).

Geological Survey Western Australia's (GSWA) philosophy for mineral systems studies was expounded at its Open Day 2014 (Extended Abstracts, pages 5–9). Several studies are also being done as components of other collaborative geoscience programs, and all such work is developed within the framework for minerals-related research advocated by the Australian Academy of Sciences in its ‘Uncover’ initiative.

Minerals geoscience projects generally fall under two broad categories:

  • mineral system characterisation
  • terrane prospectivity analyses

Current activities build on an extensive body of previous GSWA work that has captured snapshots of the known mineral endowment for assorted commodities and the metallogenesis of selected mineral systems. There are also other studies of relevance to Western Australian mineral systems.

Mineral system characterisation

These studies focus on volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS), rare earth element (REE), gold, banded iron-formation (BIF)-hosted iron ore and massive nickel sulfide mineral systems. They also focus on understanding the grain- to terrane-scale processes that might generate mineral deposits.

Integrated Exploration Platform

Project: The Centre for Exploration Targeting at The University of Western Australia and GSWA have developed add-in tools for the ESRI ArcGIS platform. The Integrated Exploration Platform (IEP) uses innovative interactive visualization and image-analysis methods to assist in the interpretation of geoscience datasets. The IEP project is funded by the Australian Research Council LP 140100267. The IEP was launched at the GSWA Open Day 2016 on 26 February 2016 and is freely available to Western Australia explorers on the web.
GSWA contact: Klaus Gessner, 3Dgeoscience@dmirs.wa.gov.au

VMS systems in the Murchison, Yilgarn Craton

Project: Deposit-scale studies of metallogeny and potential ore vectors for selected VMS systems (to date Golden Grove, Austin–Quinns, Yuinmery, Weld Range, Wheatley)
Collaborators: Industry
GSWA contacts: Lee Hassan, Josh Guilliamse

Recent products

Characterising VMS systems in the Capricorn Orogen

Mineralogical footprints and metallogeny of Western Australian REE deposits

Project: Documents the characteristics of different rare earth element (REE) deposit types such as:

  • carbonatite-hosted (Mt Weld, Yangibana/Gifford Creek, Cummins Range, Ponton)
  • alkaline volcanic-related (Hastings–Brockman)
  • hydrothermal (John Galt, Browns Range)
  • paleochannel-hosted (Mulga Rock)

Collaborators: Industry, Western Australian Museum
GSWA contact: Sidy Morin-Ka

Recent products

Age and alteration footprint of the Browns Range REE mineral system

Collaborators: Industry
GSWA contact: Trevor Beardsmore
Comments: Confidential project (December 2015 release)

3D mineral mapping of the Nanjilgardy Fault

Project: Testing for diagnostic regional alteration signatures of mineral deposits associated with a crustal-scale structure.
Collaborators: CSIRO
GSWA contact: Lena Hancock

Recent products

  • Final report (to be released)

Glenburgh gold camp, Gascoyne Province

Project: Geological setting and timing of the Glenburgh gold camp, Gascoyne Province
Collaborators: Industry, Centre for Exploration Targeting — The University of Western Australia
GSWA contact: Lisa Roche

Recent products

Mineralogy and geochronology

Project: Paulsens gold mineralogy and geochronology
Collaborators: Curtin University, Industry
GSWA contacts: Lena Hancock, Simon Johnson

Comments: Confidential project (March 2016 release)

Mineral systems of the Ashburton Basin, Capricorn Orogen

Project:  Commences with a metallogenic study of the Mount Clement gold deposit
Collaborators: Industry
GSWA contact: Josh Guilliamse

North Paterson Orogen

Project: Gold–copper mineral systems in the North Paterson Orogen
Collaborators: Industry
GSWA contact: Lisa Roche

Gold provenance fingerprinting

Project: Chemical and textural fingerprinting of hypogene and alluvial gold, to ‘fingerprint’ metallogenic terranes, identify primary deposit styles and assess terrane prospectivity for undiscovered gold mineralisation
Collaborators: Curtin University, Industry
GSWA contact: Lena Hancock

Metallogenic controls on Yilgarn and Pilbara hypogene iron ore systems

Project: Map iron ore and alteration patterns; hence, understand iron ore genesis and develop tools for detecting ore grades. The Pilbara work is done as MRIWA Project M426 (currently confidential).
Collaborators: Centre for Exploration Targeting — The University of Western Australia, Industry, MRIWA

Komatiite-hosted nickel mineralization in the Laverton Tectonic Zone

Project: Mineralogical and chemical characteristics of komatiite-hosted nickel sulfide mineralisation in the Laverton Tectonic Zone, focusing initially on the Mt Fisher East deposits
Collaborators: Industry, CSIRO, CET — The University of Western Australia
GSWA contact: Lauren Burley

Comments: Confidential project (December 2016 release)

Terrane prospectivity analyses

Project: Apply knowledge of the geological characteristics of Western Australian Archean and Proterozoic terranes, and an understanding of controls on mineralising systems, to analyse the prospectivity or test targeting criteria within these terranes. The work is largely done by third-party academic groups or individuals, funded by the EIS.

Multi-scale dynamics of hydrothermal mineral systems

Location of GSWA mineral prospectivity studies
Location of GSWA mineral prospectivity studies

Project: Conceptual research that seeks insights into the origin and localisation of giant hydrothermal deposits, via numerical modelling of deformation, energy and mass (fluid, metal) migration in different tectonic settings, at grain-to-terrane scales. It also investigates whether wavelet analysis of exploration data might deliver criteria that distinguish ‘successful’ (potentially economic) from ‘failed’ mineralising systems, and vectors to mineralisation within a successful system.

Collaborators: Centre for Exploration Targeting — The University of Western Australia, Industry, MRIWA (Project M424)

GSWA contact: Klaus Gessner

Geochemical fertility of the Yilgarn Craton for VMS mineralization

Project: Analysis of open-file lithogeochemical and geochronological data to determine which parts of the Yilgarn Craton are most prospective for VMS mineralisation
Collaborators: CSIRO (via an embedded researcher)
GSWA contact: Trevor Beardsmore

Recent products

Pyrite–magnetite chemical fingerprinting of gold and base metals systems

Project: To determine whether particular mineral deposit styles can be detected and vectored towards in the Yilgarn Craton and Capricorn Orogen, using the trace-element chemistry of pyrite, magnetite and ore associations
Collaborators: CODES — University of Tasmania
GSWA contact: Trevor Beardsmore

Yilgarn Gold Exploration Targeting Atlas

Project: Test the effectiveness of mappable geological features commonly thought to have empirical spatial associations with orogenic gold mineralisation, in a terrane for which geology and gold endowment are well constrained
Collaborators: Industry
GSWA contact: Stephen Wyche

Recent products

Prospectivity analyses of Western Australian basement terranes

Project: Multi-commodity analyses of poorly understood or underexplored regions, using a GIS-supported, knowledge-driven, mineral-systems approach (e.g. McCuaig et al., 2010, Ore Geol Rev, vol. 38, p.  128–138). These studies presently cover the Arunta, Musgrave, Gascoyne, West Kimberley and East Kimberley regions
Collaborators: Centre for Exploration Targeting — The University of Western Australia
GSWA contact: Trevor Beardsmore

Recent products

Previous GSWA work

Current projects carried out by the Minerals Geoscience group at GSWA build on an extensive body of previous work that has captured snapshots of the known mineral endowment for assorted commodities in Western Australia.

Such work is encapsulated in GSWA’s extensive library of mineral resource bulletins, Reports, Records, memoirs, and explanatory notes — all of which can be retrieved in the eBookshop via searches by commodity or publication type.

Information on Western Australia’s mineral endowment can also be obtained from the MINEDEX database, which contains an index of all known mineral deposits and occurrences in Western Australia. The WAMEX database is also useful to search for digital versions of all open-file statutory mineral exploration reports submitted by exploration companies. These databases are valuable sources of otherwise unpublished information on Western Australian geology and mineral deposits.

For more information please contact: