As one of the world’s leading producers, gold mining contributes substantially to gross economic output in Australia. UWA's School of Earth Sciences' Associate Professor Marco Fiorentini's recent ARC Linkage Grant success will provide a new set of tools to explore for gold-rich ore deposits in Australia and globally.
Teaming up with A/Prof John Mavrogen from ANU, A/Prof Charlotte Allen from QUT and Jeffrey Bigelow from Newmont Mining Corporation, the group received $519,691.00 to explore 'Experimental constraints on the genesis of gold-rich ore deposits' with Linkage partners Newmont, Rio Tinto, Anglo American and AngloGold Ashanti.
The project led by Fiorentini aims to "address some of the key knowledge gaps that we have about how gold deposits are formed. We have devised a set of new cunning experiments that will allow us to reproduce chemical and physical conditions in the Earth’s interior that have never been attained before”.
Most types of gold-rich ore deposits were formed by hot aqueous fluids released by crystallising magmas. Some common minerals, such as zircon and apatite, inherit from their parent magma the distinctive chemical indicators of gold fertility and survive sedimentary transport substantial distances from their source rock, potentially providing a more widespread signal for identification of watersheds containing gold-fertile rocks.
"The inventory of strategic metals required to support the development of new technological advances will evolve at unprecedented rates in the foreseeable future. The list of commodities that are essential to feed the progress of mankind will require exploitation of presently unknown types of ore deposits."
Previous approaches to mineral exploration that located our largest and richest ore deposits are bound to fail in the future when these exisiting sources have dried up, and smaller deposits are more difficult to locate. "I believe that models underpinning mineral exploration strategies should not be analogue-based, but rather founded on a sound understanding of the poorly constrained geological processes that control metal transport and concentration. This is the spirit of this project."
The new results will translate into smarter exploration practice, significantly enhancing success in targeting ore deposits that are rich in high-value metal and have the smallest environmental footprint.