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

The challenge

Defining where to drill and explore

Mineral exploration is a costly and time-consuming business, with drilling alone costing up to 30 per cent of an exploration project's budget.

Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection (ASTER) data is collected by satellites.

Technologies that help to define drilling targets more precisely are highly sought after to increase the efficiency of exploration and improve outcomes.

The future success of greenfield exploration for mineral resources relies on developing tools to detect the signatures of ore deposits at greater distances from the deposit itself. Recognising the subtle signatures or distal footprints of ore systems in adjacent rocks and regolith is integral.

Our response

International collaboration delivers continental-scale mineral maps

Recognising the need for tools to find previously unknown mineral deposits, we developed the world's first continental-scale suite of maps that reveal the mineralogy of the Earth's surface.

Map of Western Australia showing iron ore index where different colour represent different amounts of ore.

This map of Western Australia (WA) shows iron oxide composition on a scale from goethitic to hematitic.

The iron oxide composition scale is shown at the top left. It ranges from blue (most goethitic) to red (most hematitic). WA is covered largely by green readings, with blue patches in the South West and North East corners of the state. A few small red readings are visible in the vicinity of Kalgoorlie (although no place names are marked).

A 200 km scale bar is shown at the bottom right.

ASTER map of Western Australia showing iron ore index.

The maps were generated from a ten-year archive of raw Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection (ASTER) data collected by NASA and the Japanese Government's Japan Space Systems.

We developed software that transformed the data into continental scale mineral maps that show information about rock and soil mineral components and provide a Google-like zoom to view images from thousands of kilometres wide to just a few kilometres.

The ASTER maps represent a successful collaboration involving scientists from Japan, United States of America and Australia.

The results

Helping exploration companies find gold

Exploration companies and goescientists can now access have enhanced information about where to sample and drill for minerals.

Within three days of release the maps led to exploration company, Kentor Gold, discovering gold grades of up to 50 grams per tonne and significant copper in Queensland.

The ASTER maps are freely accessible online from the AuScope Discovery Portal .

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