When it comes to delivering the metals that will underpin the global transition to renewable energy, Australia is well positioned to be the global lead. At CSIRO, we aim to catalyse the journey for Australia to unlock this potential. JONATHAN LAW writes
In this edition of Resourceful, we focus on the power of partnerships. This approach was recently on display at our annual Resources Innovation Showcase event in Perth highlighting new exploration tools that will lead to new Australian discoveries by our partners.
At the national scale, geophysics provide a foundational data set for exploration through cover, with Australia holding some of the best and most extensive data coverage in the world. In the Gawler Craton, an innovative approach to data selection is enabling better target definition to deliver additional value from regional surveys. These same surveys support water discovery and management in Australia’s outback supporting sustainable regional communities.
At the regional to prospect scale, exploration success depends on the right technology being applied in the right way to minimise wasted effort and / or lost opportunities. Our partnership with Gold Road Resources in the Eastern Yilgarn of Western Australia is delivering exploration tools to explore under the vast expanse of desert sands in the region.
These studies combine landscape evolution with an understanding of anomaly formation to generate high quality targets for exploration and can be applied in any new or challenging exploration domain.
Nickel sulphides present small but attractive exploration targets. The Kambalda discovery is legendary in the industry but finding the next deposit of this type is likely to be a lot harder. Indicator minerals provide an exciting opportunity to bridge the gap between drilling and the fertility of intersected horizons.
This approach is now a key part of testing the fertility of kimberlite pipes for diamonds and advances in technology now make it possible to look for signals in magmatic nickel systems using chromite, magnetite, pyroxene, olivines and arsenides. This research is at an exciting stage where we are testing the concepts with a growing network of explorers.
In many critical battery metals, mineralogy and metal deportment is as important as grade in assessing value. CSIRO is partnering with industry in the newly discovered WA manganese belt to explore the complex mineralogy of manganese to define the most attractive deposits and identify successful processing options.
Fast and accurate geochemical data is essential for exploration. Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is used on NASA missions to analyse lunar and Martian rocks and regolith. This technology is now been developed in partnership with an Australian gold producer, Northern Star Resources, to analyse core samples from mining sites using high powered lasers. These data will inform exploration decisions and provide unpresented clarity for deposit and resource models.
Each of these examples relies on our partners to focus innovation on the issues that matter to them – this keeps our research portfolio relevant and well-positioned to unlock the next generation of resource discoveries in Australia.
These discoveries in turn provide the raw materials and downstream commercial opportunities to put Australia at the forefront of the global transition to renewable energy.