Ancient nickel-iron sulphide deposits, which are some of our most valuable mineral resources, provide important clues to help us understand the operation of the Earth’s systems more than 2.5 billion years ago.
Formed at a time when there was no oxygen and no complex life, these clues can help us find more deposits, according to Professor Mark Barley of the Centre for Exploration Targeting in The University of Western Australia’s School of Earth and Geographical Sciences.
He is one of six geoscientists from UWA who will present research spanning every age of the planet at the 119th annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver from October 28.
“Between us, we’re looking at all of Earth’s history,” Associate Professor Myra Keep said. Professor Keep’s work is focussed on East Timor, a region that was once part of the ‘front-end’ of the ancient super-continent, Gondwana. Australia was part of Gondwana when, about 20 million years ago, it collided with a chain of volcanic islands, now Indonesia, resulting in gold and oil deposits.
Dr Wolfgang Maier, Dr Marco Fiorentini and PhD student Geoff Heggie will also discuss their research at the five-day conference which 6,300 geoscientists are expected to attend.
Reflecting the Centre for Exploration Targeting’s mission to increase the discovery of new mineral deposits while improving the risk/reward ratio, they have undertaken exploration in WA as well as in Canada, Western Tanzania and Burundi.
And at a time in the Earth’s history when change is driven more by human intervention than by the natural processes representative of the past, Dr Chen Zhong Qiang, also from Earth and Geographical Sciences, will discuss his research into the restoration of a marine ecosystem in the Gondwana interior sea after the mass extinctions during the Permian-Triassic age.
This period, more than 250 million years ago, was a time when most marine and land species died and some scientists speculate the extinction event was caused by factors such as plate tectonics, a supernova, volcanic activity or the release of frozen methane hydrate from the seabeds to cause an increase in greenhouse gases.