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The challenge

Lack of access to the data needed for successful exploration

This map shows the distribution of silica deposits in Australia. 

The colour pattern starts at purple and blue for low levels ranging up to green, yellow and then red for the highest levels. 

Most of the map is blue or green with only tiny dots of yellow and red scattered in green areas. The higher silica concentrations shown in green are in the centre of the Australian continent. 

ASTER map of Australia showing distribution fo silica deposits.

The long term future of mining in Australia depends on finding and successfully targeting new resources to extract. Demand for Australian minerals remains strong, but there has been a decline in successful exploration, because of the difficulty involved in discovering what lies beneath the highly weathered rock and sedimentary basins that cover approximately 80 per cent of Australia.

There are also difficulties with access to the wealth of geoscientific data required for successful exploration: much of it is in different formats, collected using different measurement techniques, housed in disconnected datasets and literature, and usually only collected for specific regional projects.

These valuable data are seldom available on a continental scale or aggregated in a consistent way.

Our response

AuScope as key portal for data for Earth mineralogy and chemistry

As part of the AuScope National Infrastructure Program, CSIRO has developed the Spatial Information Services Stack (SISS), which enables seamless access to the distributed, heterogeneous datasets from Australia's geological surveys.

AuScope has become a key portal for accessing data from several of our exploration innovations, including:

  • Laterite chemistry, which enables underground gold deposits to be identified through analysis of surface soils chemistry
  • Hylogger™, which generates data from borehole cores, providing a new 3D perspective on mineral distribution associated with high value ore deposits
  • ASTER Atlas, which comprises maps of the Earth's surface mineralogy, focusing on iron oxides, clays, carbonates, quartz, muscovite and chlorite.

The results

Providing global standards and underpinning Australian policy

To improve the availability and accessibility of comprehensive geoscientific data, we collaborated with 22 organisations, including Geoscience Australia, 11 universities, and state and territory government agencies, through AuScope.

This now provides seamless access to important geosciences data, including the most up-to-date source of information available and live data from the geological surveys.

AuScope is allowing exploration companies to make new mineral resource discoveries – over and above the $458 million in gold discoveries annually enabled by our laterite chemistry research, for example.

AuScope is estimated to save the sector $35 million per year by helping the industry better target their exploration programs.

AuScope is an Australian Government initiative conducted as part of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) through the Department of Innovation, Industry Science and Research. The SISS national e-research project is supported by CSIRO, the Australian National Data Service and the Australian Research Collaboration Service.

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