The remains of volcanoes from billions of years ago are helping scientists identify both bygone continental boundaries and new places to find mineral resources in Australia.
Zircon, the oldest mineral on the planet, is helping geologists understand how Earth started out and how it continues to evolve. By better understanding the Earth’s structure, mining companies have been able to find new mineral deposits.
“Most of the mineral deposits that are exposed on the surface of the planet have already been found and mined, but we need to find the ones that are still hidden,” Dr Elena Belousova says.
She and her colleagues at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Core to Crust Fluid Systems have developed TerraneChron®, a tool that looks at zircons found in geological samples, such as rocks or sand in river beds, to find out when they crystallised.
Francis Torres from The University of Western Australia has developed the mirror device at the heart of a new amplifier technology, which uses an interaction between a high-powered laser and mirror motion to magnify subtle metal, temperature and biological vibrations so they are more easily detected.
BHP Billiton, the world’s largest diversified resources company, is focused on developing bioleaching technology to recover metals from difficult-to-treat concentrates or low-grade ores.
Predictive mineral exploration by Australian scientists has given local mining companies a powerful edge in the hotly competitive world gold market. Instead of pouring money – and lots of it – into the ground in the quest for undiscovered mineral deposits: often coming up empty.