Through a three-year collaboration focused on the Cloncurry district in Queensland, we're developing new workflows to better understand the interrelationships between structural, geophysical and geochemical parameters at the micro-scale. It's enabling a paradigm shift in how we explore for minerals under cover.
Disparate geological data sets
Rock properties are a vital link between observed geophysical data and interpreted geology needed for creating 3D geological models for use in minerals exploration.
Integrating rock property data offers huge advantages. For example, a combination of structural, mineralogical and textural data can be used to predict the shape of an orebody based on only one drill hole.
Historically though, rock property data has been collected by different people, from different institutions and using different methods. All of these factors cause issues in the interpretation of geophysical data.
In order to create accurate 3D models to enable new mineral resource discoveries, we need solutions that use machine learning, data analytics and prospectivity analysis to address measurement inconsistencies and effectively integrate different rock property datasets.
Correlating geophysical data through new workflows
In partnership with industry and the Geological Survey of Queensland, we are developing a scale-consistent, quantitative database of rock properties in Queensland’s Cloncurry region – a world class iron-oxide copper-gold province. The project will ultimately lead to innovative tools, methods, machine learning and artificial intelligence for integrating geophysics data to benefit the wider minerals exploration industry.
Through the project, the team is developing workflows that enable the correlation of geophysical data. For example, measurements such as susceptibility, remanence, density, radiometrics and conductivity of rocks, can be correlated with data on structural fabrics, mineralogy, geochemistry and hyperspectral reflectance at the sample scale.
This allows us to better understand the interrelationships between geophysical and geological parameters at larger scales such as for deposits and mineral systems. Geologists can then use this data to directly target indicators for mineral deposits in regional geophysical data sets.
Our innovative approach offers a paradigm shift in how geological data can be integrated for more effective mineral exploration.
Integrated geophysical, structural and geochemical mineral system science
By developing and applying this approach, we've made new breakthroughs that can change the way we do exploration. For example, using structural analysis coupled with mineralogy and texture mapping can be used to predict orebody geometry based on only one drill hole. This can provide valuable guidance on drill hole design for resource evaluation at depth, saving time and money, by giving explorers the knowledge to better locate follow-up drilling and define the target with a minimum of drill holes.
We've also identified links between redox gradients and uranium precipitation in sediment-hosted systems that can be utilised as a regional proxy for prospective stratigraphy. This can help explorers trace more reactive geological layers regionally and in turn provide higher probability exploration targets.
The Cloncurry research collaboration involves the Centre for Ore Deposit and Earth Sciences (CODES) from University of Tasmania and the W.H. Bryan Mining and Geology Research Centre (BRC) from University of Queensland to provide much needed new exploration strategies for the region.
The end result will be a database from the analysis of thousands of one-inch rock cylinders taken from the Cloncurry region, capturing a range of information on the rocks, to enable new minerals discoveries in the region.