Is there a unique approach to gold exploration? The CSIRO thinks so

By Jonathan Jackson. Published at May 28, 2020, in Features

Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, has produced new understanding of mineralisation in the Yilgarn Province in WA.

Research supported by the Western Australian government through the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA), has found the formation of ancient gold deposits during the Archean period over 2,500 million years ago, also produced distinctive patterns of chemical alteration in the surrounding rocks.

Finding distinctive patterns of chemical alteration will make it faster and more efficient for exploration companies to identify potential new deposits.

The CSIRO believes this could greatly assist exploration in the Eastern Yilgarn region. Despite its proximity with the Eastern Goldfields and its shared Archean geology with its richly-endowed neighbour, Eastern Yilgarn has produced fewer gold discoveries to date than expected.

Those who follow exploration companies will know that conventional exploration relies on geological and geophysical mapping, coupled with whole-rock geochemistry to find a gold deposit, or suitable host rocks and structures that might host the deposit.

Research conducted by the CSIRO took a different approach. The CSIRO studied the chemical system that deposited the gold.

RIGHT: John Walshe and Adam Bath logging and sampling historical diamond drill core from the Mount Magnet core farm.
RIGHT: John Walshe and Adam Bath logging and sampling historical diamond drill core from the Mount Magnet core farm.

Bringing science to mineral exploration

The CSIRO is possibly the last organisation, you’d expect to have an influence on gold exploration, however this latest research not only has global application, but also reinforces CSIRO’s position as a leader in the development of mineral exploration technologies.

CSIRO’s Director of Mineral Resources, Dr Rob Hough, said their work assists Australian industry by translating science to mineral exploration and supporting the role of Australia’s resources in sustainable global development.

“This research project is a great example of CSIRO’s close collaboration with the Western Australian Government and MRIWA, to support a productive, sustainable and globally competitive mineral resources industry for the benefit of Australia,” Dr Hough said.

“We have world leading research capabilities in Perth and welcome opportunities to develop minerals sector innovation in partnership with the industry and government.”

The $10 billion capped Northern Star Resources Limited (ASX:NST) is a project sponsor.

“The new approaches developed from the project have challenged conventional wisdom, established new models for the genesis of mineral systems and provided insights into how we might navigate them," Jamie Rogers, General Manager Exploration for Northern Star said.

“Northern Star sponsored the project to help fast track and ultimately benefit from the development of new mineral exploration tools and technologies.”

The $1.4 billion capped Gold Road Resources (ASX:GOR) is also a project sponsor, illustrating how seriously this work is being taken.

“Discovery of the next generation of gold mines requires developing better ways to target and map the gold mineralising systems," Kevin Cassidy Chief Geologist FAIG, FSEG for Godl Road said.

“Gold Road Resources is utilising the innovative technologies and knowledge advances developed from the ground-breaking project to identify new areas with gold potential and refine understanding of known gold systems, effectively improving the way we go about our exploration.”

Further sponsorship has come from the $1.3 billion capped Ramelius Resources Limited (ASX: RMS), the $9.8 billion capped Evolution Mining Limited (ASX:EVN), the $140 million capped small cap, Blackham Resources Limited (ASX: BLK), privately owned Echo Resources Limited and the $5.5 billion capped Saracen Mineral Holdings Limited.

The technical report summarising the findings of this research can be found at Mapping the Chemical Architecture of Gold Camps.

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