A new partnership between CSIRO and the Northern Territory Geological Survey is building a better picture of prospectivity in unexplored areas of the McArthur Basin. EMILY LEHMANN reports.

Article from resourceful: Issue 9, March 2016.


The McArthur Basin spans an area of about 180,000 square kilometres in the Northern Territory (NT) and Queensland and is home to one of Australia’s largest lead-zinc-silver mines at McArthur River, as well as copper, diamond, iron ore and uranium deposits. Yet, large expanses of the basin’s north are still yet to be explored.

A new collaboration agreement between the Northern Territory Geological Survey (NTGS) and CSIRO is set to change this. Together, they will gain new insights into the geology and mineral potential of strategic regions, such as the McArthur Basin, and provide industry with new, valuable datasets and concepts.

The first project will see CSIRO embed two post-doctoral researchers with the NTGS in Darwin to do a largescale geophysical and mineral system assessment of the McArthur basin over two and a half years.

"We have a long history of working together with the geological surveys around the country, but this is a new way of working," CSIRO head of the partnership agreement, Dr Louise Fisher says.

"The advantage of having expertise on the ground in their offices means that we can align our goals and better support our collaborative projects."

The project links in to the NTGS' four-year, $23.8 million program called the Creating Opportunities for Resource Exploration (CORE) initiative.

CORE aims to enhance their regional geoscience programs including a resources assessment for base metals, copper, nickel, zinc and lead. The focus of this work is on strategic, largely under-explored areas that the NT government is seeking to develop.

NTGS Director of Regional Geoscience, Dorothy Close, says the ultimate aim is to attract industry investment in exploration to increase chances of new mineral discoveries.

"Like the rest of Australia, most of the ‘easy’ to discover mineral deposits on the surface have been found, so it’s important that we're applying the best possible science and technology in the

NT to assist explorers in finding hidden deposits that aren’t exposed at the surface.

"The benefits flow both ways – CSIRO will be able to access our extensive datasets and unique knowledge of the NT's geology, while we'll be able to gain from CSIRO's minerals expertise and state-of-the-art technologies," Ms Close says.

Drawing on National Resource Science Precinct capability, the project will see CSIRO's researchers use geophysical modelling and advanced characterisation tools to test and refine

NTGS's 3D models of geology under cover. The research will help identify where mineral deposits are most likely to occur.

Dr Fisher says that embedding their researchers into organisations like the state geological surveys is beneficial for both parties.

"It's definitely something we’re keen to do more of, so we’re exploring opportunities to collaborate with the other state geological surveys using the same model," Dr Fisher says.

The datasets generated at the end of the project will be a valuable outcome for industry.

The team will present these as a series of maps, digital datasets and reports to support exploration targeting in the region which will be freely available through the NTGS open access portal.

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