Exploration through cover

Our researchers are providing tools, technologies and techniques to guide successful exploration and resource discoveries beneath the cover of deeply weathered rocks that have hidden them in the past. These exploration solutions draw strongly on our expertise in geology, geophysics, geochemistry and various detection technologies, systems and data platforms.

The Challenge

Uncovering obscured mineral resources

Under cover exploration

Show transcript

[Music plays and text appears on screen: Uncovering Australia’s deep mineral wealth]

[Image changes to show animation of an outline of Australia, a gold and black pattern spreads across the map]

Narrator: Australia is a land bestowed with great natural riches and we have just scratched the surface of the potential which lies within. Most of our mining efforts have concentrated near to the surface.

[Animation changes to show brick like object stacking up as numbers count from 0 years to 150 years. The animation of Australia is now black]

But after a 150-years of mining we have exhausted our easily discoverable, near surface resources.

[Animation changes to show a new animation of the ground, a slice of ground is cut out and appears on screen as a multi-coloured rectangle]

Much of the countries mineral wealth is still hidden under a thick cover of unconsolidated rock and soil, sediments and igneous rocks.

[Image shows the rectangular cut out piece getting a new pink layer]

Eighty per cent of Australia’s landscape is undercover, tapping these resources by going beneath the cover; deeper exploration has the potential to reveal vast, new, high quality mineral deposits.

[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo with small animations representing different fields popping up below the logo]

Fortunately CSIRO is developing new skills, tools and cost effective approaches to make this possible through UNCOVER, Australia’s biggest geoscience initiative in one hundred years

[Image changes to show the word UNCOVER on screen and then words the narrator is speaking flash on screen]

involving government, research and industry, CSIRO is leading work to understand distil footprints, chemical and magnetic signatures left by minerals and developing tools that can point to perspective ore bodies that lie far below the surface.

[Image changes to show animation of land, represented by earthy colours of green and brown, with a water system moving through. CSIRO Logo displays in the centre of the animation]

We also look for clues in nature to help reduce costs and increase discoveries at depth.

[Image changes to show animation of gum trees with gold flecks on the leaves and then shows ants moving up a mound carrying gold flecks]

For example, we have developed techniques to find metal concentrations in plants, even ant and termite mounds.

[Animation changes to show a helicopter in the air with electro-magnetic equipment attached to it]

We are using airborne electro-magnetic systems to gather geophysical data and map conductive material below the surface.

[Animation changes to show a hydro-geochemical tool drilling through land to a water reservoir]

We have created hydro-geochemical tools to test ground water for traces of metals existing in covered ore bodies.

[Animation changes to show a geochemical halo]

We are unravelling the secrets of geochemical halos in sedimentary basins to understand their mineralising potential to target undercover exploration with more precision.

[Snippets of the animations played come together on the screen]

CSIRO’s undercover exploration research will support long-term prosperity arising from Australia’s mineral resources sector. Opening these new frontiers in mineral exploration and unlocking these resources is crucial for sustaining Australian mining.

[CSIRO logo appears on screen with text below it: Uncovering Australia’s deep mineral wealth]

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears on screen with text: Big ideas start here www.csiro.au]

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Australia's unrealised mineral wealth lies mostly buried beneath an ancient blanket of deeply weathered rocks and transported sediments, known as regolith.

Regolith covers almost 80 per cent of the Australian land mass and in the past has been seen as a hindrance to exploration.

As many of the easily accessed and higher grade ore bodies are depleted, interest in these covered resources is increasing.

In a competitive market, mining companies and investors are looking to us for new greenfield opportunities and cost-efficient discovery methods and exploration investment.

Our Response

Scientific sleuthing skills

Working with a range of partners over several decades we have changed the way mining and exploration companies explore for mineral deposits in Australia's regolith-dominated terrains.

With our partners, we have developed and applied a wide range of methods, technologies and systems to achieve great success in 'under cover' discovery. For example, our innovation led to the discovery of substantial gold deposits, including Bronzewing, Nimary, Jundee, Carosue Dam and Ghost Crab in Western Australia and Challenger in South Australia, and assisted discovery of many other commodities at locations across Australia and internationally.

These successes draw heavily on our expertise in regolith geology, geochemical and geophysical analysis, detection systems and data platforms.

Our focus has shifted onto some exciting new technologies as well as methods for integrating data and information to greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of exploration and discovery.

Case studies

  • Gold in gum leaves

    We are finding novel ways to detect minerals deposits. One way we have successfully used involves detecting traces of precious metals in the gum leaves as indicators for the presence of ore deposits below.

  • Unearthing mineral deposits around the world

    Around the world, our LANDTEM exploration tool is being used to unearth new mineral deposits worth billions of dollars.

  • Access to Australia’s geology data at the click of a button

    In partnership with AuScope, we have developed open-access geospatial data and the Spatial Information Services Stack (SISS) to help industry and the community explore Australia's geology on a national scale.

  • ASTER: continental-scale mineral maps improving mineral exploration

    Our world-first continental-scale ASTER mineral maps have changed the way geoscientists and explorers look for mineral deposits.

  • TEMPEST: locating minerals from the sky

    The TEMPEST system provides accurate, three-dimensional data on subsurface conductivity to help pinpoint areas of interest for mineral exploration. This airborne technology is able to survey large areas of land, providing valuable information to assist governments and industry in their search for Australia’s geological riches.

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