Giant Ore Deposits: Why they are important!”

Presentation to the 2010 Theo Murphy High Flyers Think Tank on Searching the Deep Earth: The Future of Australian Resource Discovery and Utilisation organized by the Australian Academy of Science, Shine Dome, Canberra, August 2010

The Australian Academy of Science views the Mining Sector as the foundation of Australia’s economy. Of concern though is that, while exploration expenditure is on the rise, exploration success is declining. To reverse this trend, the Academy hosted a special Think Tank session in Canberra and invited over one hundred of the Country’s brightest young geologists and researchers to develop a strategic roadmap to Sustain Australia’s wealth for the next century.

To help set the scene for the Think Tank, I gave a brief presentation on why giant orebodies are important. In short, while rare, they host most of the wealth! The real challenge to Australia is the need to improve our discovery rate of world-class mines. The key to this is:

  • Be in the right area. It is no use exploring where there are no ore bodies.
  • Be innovative. You have to be efficient and innovative in area selection. Also, you have to be very effective in testing those areas. You have to have the tools to be able to explore those things effectively. And finally, we need to
  • Be smarter at how we extract the ore. Geologists need to work together with engineers and metallurgists to make ore bodies.

Following the Session I also prepared a number of charts for inclusion in the Executive Summary. These showed that there is a clear trend in Australia towards finding deposits under deeper cover. However most of these discoveries are within established mining districts. As a consequence, contrary to perceived wisdom, much of Australia is under-explored and well-placed to host giant deposits. However we need to develop the tools and techniques to find and develop them.

The Think Tank identified the following six key initiatives:

  1. A national map of the depth and character of the cover of Australia that will prioritise new areas for exploration and new directions for research.
  2. A national map of the deep crust and adjacent upper mantle that will employ innovative methods to acquire new geophysical and geochemical data. This map will be supported by a competitive crustal drilling program to constrain the interpretations resulting from these new data.
  3. A national ‘distal footprints’ program to detect the far-field signatures of giant ore systems in ancient land surfaces now buried by cover.
  4. A national four-dimensional (3D plus time) metallogenic map that relates Australia’s major mineral deposits to the geodynamic contexts in which they formed.
  5. A national research network to bring the exploration community together and ensure we understand and exploit the available synergies.
  6. A national education and technology transfer program to foster rapid uptake and application of the results and ensure exploration success.

The full proceedings and Executive Summary from the workshop can be downloaded at:

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