West Musgrave Province

The west Musgrave Province project team has carried out geoscientific investigations including detailed geological mapping to advance our knowledge of the region’s tectonic evolution and prospectivity.

From 2003–2014, the Musgrave mapping team carried out detailed geological mapping at 1:100 000 scale in the main project area between Warburton and Wingellina and at 1:250 000 scale at the northern and southern boundaries of the project area, where the Musgrave Province is in contact with the Amadeus and Officer Basins, respectively. High-quality lithogeochemical, isotopic and geochronological data were collected routinely and have been used as mapping tools and to unravel the geological history of the region and its deep crustal architecture. Geophysical datasets, including aeromagnetic and gravity, deep seismic reflection and magnetotelluric (MT) data have together provided multi-disciplinary earth imaging to further our geological understanding of the earth’s crust and upper mantle in the Musgrave region.

Links to GSWA’s and other publications are provided below. The West Musgrave 2017 Geological Information Series package is the most up-to-date compilation for the project.

Comagmatic gabbroic and granitic magmas of the Hinckley Range, BELL ROCK
Comagmatic gabbroic and granitic magmas of the Hinckley Range, BELL ROCK
Rapakivi granite from the Pitjantjatjara Supersuite, on central BATES
Rapakivi granite from the Pitjantjatjara Supersuite, on central BATES

Evolution of the Musgrave Province

Regional geological map of the Musgrave Province
Regional geological map of the Musgrave Province

The Musgrave Province lies at the junction of three Proterozoic structural trends formed by the amalgamation of the North, West, and South Australian Cratons, and is one of the most important regions in terms of understanding the geological evolution of Proterozoic central Australia.

The oldest known basement component in the west Musgrave Province is the orthogneiss of the 1600–1550 Ma Warlawurru Supersuite; however, Hf isotopic data from zircons in magmatic and sedimentary rocks throughout the Musgrave Province suggest there was also a significant juvenile crust formation event at 1950–1900 Ma. A small exposure of the c. 1400 Ma Papulankutja Supersuite exists to the south of Mount Scott.

During the 1345–1293 Ma Mount West Orogeny, voluminous calc-alkaline plutonism was accompanied by clastic and volcaniclastic basin formation. This stage traced the evolution of an arc, reflecting the final amalgamation of the combined North and West Australian Cratons to the South Australian Craton.

At the beginning of the 1220–1150 Ma Musgrave Orogeny, the crust was thinned substantially during the initiation of a high heat flow event characterised by c. 100 Ma of ultrahigh-temperature metamorphism and of high-temperature, anhydrous, alkali-calcic magmatism that maintained the thin crustal regime.

Voluminous magmatism was triggered during the 1090–1040 Ma Giles Event with the evolution of the magmatism-dominated, Ngaanyatjarra Rift. This event produced more than 50 million years of almost continuous, mantle-derived bimodal magmatism, generating one of the world’s largest layered mafic intrusions and some of the most voluminous felsic (alkali-calcic to alkali) volcanic eruptions — some of supervolcano volume.

Despite minor mafic dyke intrusion at c. 1000, 825 and 750 Ma, the Musgrave Province is commonly regarded as tectonically quiescent until intracontinental reactivation during the 580–520 Ma Petermann Orogeny.

Deformation during the Petermann Orogeny produced east-trending crustal-scale faults and shear zones that dissect the entire Musgrave Province. Metamorphic conditions during the Petermann Orogeny approached eclogite facies south of the Woodroffe Thrust, and amphibolite facies or lower in the north-verging Petermann Nappe Complex.

Detailed descriptions of all lithological units in the west Musgrave Province can be accessed through the Explanatory Notes System (ENS).

Further Publications

Further articles and posters are available in the departments eBookshop.



Proterozoic crustal evolution of the Eucla basement, Australia: Implications for destruction of oceanic crust during emergence of Nuna

Kirkland, CL, Smithies, R, Spaggiari, C, Wingate, M, Quentin de Gromard, R, Clark, C, Gardiner, N and Belousova, E

Lithos 278-281, 427–444 doi:10.1016/j.lithos.2017.01.029
2015 Piggyback Supervolcanoes - Long-Lived, Voluminous, Juvenile Rhyolite Volcanism in Mesoproterozoic central Australia

Smithies, RH, Howard, HM, Kirkland, CL, Korhonen, FJ, Medlin, CK, Maier, WD, Quentin de Gromard, R and Wingate, MTD

Journal of Petrology. 56, 735–763 doi:10.1093/petrology/egv015
2015 Syn-volcanic cannibalisation of juvenile felsic crust: Superimposed giant 18O-depleted rhyolite systems in the hot and thinned crust of Mesoproterozoic central Australia

Smithies, RH, Kirkland, CL, Cliff, JB, Howard, HM and Quentin de Gromard, R

Earth and Planetary Science Letters 424, 15–25 doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2015.05.005
2015 Foreign contempories – unravelling disparate isotopic signatures from Mesoproterozoic Central and Western Australia

Kirkland, CL, Smithies, RH and Spaggiari, CV

Precambrian Research 265, 218–231 doi:10.1016/j.precamres.2014.12.001
2015 Magmatic ore deposits in mafic–ultramafic intrusions of the Giles Event,Western Australia

Maier, WD, Howard, HM, Smithies, RH, Yang, SH, Barnes, S-J , O'Brien, H, Huhma, H and Gardoll, S

Ore Geology Reviews 71, 405–436 doi:10.1016/j.oregeorev.2015.06.010


The burning heart - the Proterozoic geology and geological evolution of the west Musgrave Region, central Australia

Howard, HM, Smithies, RH, Kirkland, CL, Kelsey, DE, Aitken, A, Wingate, MTD, Quentin de Gromard, R, Spaggiari CV and Maier WD

Gondwana Research, 27, 64–94 doi:10.1016/j.gr.2014.09.001


The Mesoproterozoic thermal evolution of the Musgrave Province in central Australia – plume vs. the geological record

Smithies, RH, Kirkland, CL, Korhonen, FJ, Aitken, ARA, Howard, HM, Maier, WD, Wingate, MTD, Quentin de Gromard, R, Gessner, K

Gondwana Research, 27, 1419–1429 doi:10.1016/j.gr.2013.12.014


Ultra-hot Mesoproterozoic evolution of intracontinental central Australia

Gorczyk W, Smithies RH, Korhonen, F, Howard HM and Quentin de Gromard R

Geoscience Frontiers doi:10.1016/j.gsf.2014.03.001


P–T–t evolution of a large, long-lived, ultrahigh-temperature Grenvillian belt in Central Australia

Walsh, AK, Kelsey, DE, Kirkland, CL, Hand, M, Smithies, RH, Clark, C and Howard, HM

Gondwana Research 28, 531–564 doi:10.1016/j.gr.2014.05.012


Petrogenesis of the A-type, Mesoproterozoic intracaldera rheomorphic Kathleen Ignimbrite and co-magmatic Rowland suite intrusions, west Musgrave Province, central Australia: products of extreme fractional crystallisation in a failed rift setting

Medlin CC, Jowitt, SM, Cas, RAF, Smithies, RH, Kirkland, CL, Maas, RA, Raveggi, M, Howard, HM and Wingate, MTD

Journal of Petrology 56, 493–525 doi:10.1093/petrology/egv007


Constraints and deception in the isotopic record; the crustal evolution of the west Musgrave Province, central Australia

Kirkland, CL, Smithies, RH, Woodhouse, AJ, Howard, HM, Wingate, MTD, Belousova, EA, Cliff, JB, Murphy, RC and Spaggiari, CV

Gondwana Research 23, 759–781 doi:10.1016/j.gr.2012.06.001


Magmatism-dominated intracontinental rifting in the Mesoproterozoic: The Ngaanyatjarra Rift, central Australia

Aitken, ARA, Smithies, RH, Dentith, MC, Joly, A, Evans, S and Howard, HM

Gondwana Research, 24, 886–901 doi:10.1016/j.gr.2012.10.003


On the edge: U–Pb, Lu–Hf, and Sm–Nd data suggests reworking of the Yilgarn Craton margin during formation of the Albany–Fraser Orogen

Kirkland, CL, Spaggiari, CV, Pawley, MJ, Wingate, MTD, Smithies, RH, Howard, HM, Tyler, IM, Belousova, EA and Poujol, M

Precambrian Research, 187, 223–247  doi:10.1016/j.precamres.2011.03.002


High temperature granite magmatism, crust–mantle interaction and the Mesoproterozoic intracontinental evolution of the Musgrave Province, central Australia

Smithies, RH, Howard, HM, Evins, PM, Kirkland, CL, Kelsey, DE, Hand, M, Wingate, MTD, Collins, AS and Belousova, E

Journal of Petrology 52, 931–958. doi.org/10.1093/petrology/egr010


Devil in the detail; The 1150–1000 Ma magmatic and structural evolution of the Ngaanyatjarra Rift, west Musgrave Province, central Australia

Evins, PM, Smithies, RH, Howard, HM, Kirkland, CL, Wingate, MTD and Bodorkos, S

Precambrian Research 183, 572–588 doi:10.1016/j.precamres.2010.02.011


The anatomy of a deep intracontinental orogen

Raimondo, T, Collins, AS, Hand, M, Walker-Hallam, A, Smithies, RH, Evins, PM and Howard, HM

Tectonics 29, doi:10.1029/2009TC002504


Ediacaran intracontinental channel flow

Raimondo, T, Collins, AS, Hand, M, Walker-Hallam, A, Smithies, RH, Evins, PM and Howard, HM

Geology 37, 291–294 doi:10.1130/G25452A.1




Ngaanyatjarra logo

This work was supported and facilitated by the local Traditional Owners and the Ngaanyatjarra Council.


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