Photo of Dr Stephen Barnes, CSIRO Exploration & Mining

Dr Stephen Barnes, CSIRO Exploration & Mining

Dr Steve Barnes: discovering more about ore deposits

Dr Steve Barnes is an economic geologist with a background in igneous petrology, geochemistry and volcanology and is CSIRO’s expert in komatiites and nickel ore deposits.

  • 7 June 2005 | Updated 14 November 2013

In this article

  1. Overview
  2. Publishing History


Page 1 of 2

Current activities

Dr Steve Barnes currently leads the Geology and Geochemistry Group at CSIRO Earth Science and Resource Engineering and is a project leader in the Minerals Down Under Flagship.

His primary speciality is in the geology and geochemistry of nickel sulfide ore deposits, particularly those hosted within ancient ultra-high-temperature lava flows called komatiites.

Recent research has focused on the use of platinum group element geochemistry as an exploration tool. An offshoot of this research, carried out in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Western Australia, has led to a paper in Nature on the history of the mantle of the early Earth.

Current and planned research includes X-ray microtomography studies of host rocks and ores, the alteration and deformation of nickel orebodies, application of geochemistry and alteration of ultramafic rocks to exploration for Archaean gold deposits, and the geochemistry and petrogenesis of the Archaean volcanic rocks of the Yilgarn Craton.

Dr Barnes edited a Special Publication on the Nickel Deposits of the Yilgarn Craton [external link], published by the Society of Economic Geologists in 2006.

Dr Steve Barnes speciality is in the geology and geochemistry of nickel sulfide ore deposits, particularly those hosted within ancient ultra-high-temperature lava flows called komatiites.

Dr Barnes has produced a database and widely-cited review paper on the range of compositions of the spinel mineral group (including chromite) in terrestrial rocks.


Dr Barnes has worked with CSIRO since 1985, with a break between 19881 and 190 where he worked with mining and exploration company Hunter Resources, as an exploration geologist looking for platinum.

Dr Steve Barnes primary speciality is in research relating to exploration for magmatic ores, that is, ores formed directly from molten rock. Much of his work in recent years has been in the study of nickel sulphide ores in the ancient volcanic rocks of Western Australia. Dr Barnes has been extensively involved in research on ore deposits of platinum and chromium.

He is currently leader of the Geology and Geochemistry research group in CESRE.

Dr Barnes also spent two years (1883-1985) as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Postdoctoral Fellow at NASA's Johnson Space Centre, Houston, Texas, USA.

Academic qualifications

Dr Barnes was awarded a:

  • Bachelor of Arts, Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom, in 1977
  • Master of Science, from the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1979
  • Doctor of Philosophy, also from the University of Toronto in 1983.

Dr Barnes is the author of more than 90 peer-reviewed publications, which together have received more than 2700 citations.

Dr Barnes’ theses were on the Katinniq nickel deposit in the Raglan belt of Quebec, and the JM Platinum Reef in the Stillwater Complex.


Dr Barnes was awarded the Gibb Maitland Medal by the WA chapter of the Geological Society of Australia in 2011. This is the premier professional award of the Society, and recognises outstanding contributions to understanding the geology of the state.

He was also the recipient of the Wardell Armstrong Prize of the Institute of Materials Minerals and Miming in 2009.

Dr Barnes currently serves on the Editorial Board of the international journal Economic Geology.

Dr Barnes was part of the team led by Dr Robin Hill which won the CSIRO Chairman's Medal in 1989. The Medal was awarded for pioneering research on applying principals of volcanology to the quest for nickel ores hosted by komatiites.

Read more about CSIRO's work in Mineral resources.