Researchers at Curtin University’s John de Laeter Centre have developed techniques using the mineral rutile to point the way to hidden ore deposits.
Led by professors Neal McNaughton and Brent McInnes, the research team has developed procedures to prepare, analyse and date individual crystals of rutile from a range of rock types commonly found in Western Australian mineral exploration.
The study highlighted a clear distinction between rutile associated with richly endowed gold ore systems and rutile from un-mineralised rocks.
According to the research, this insight could help develop more effective mineral exploration workflows, de-risking investment targeting the next generation of gold ore bodies in under-explored areas of Western Australia.
“Minerals like rutile are highly resistant to chemical and physical breakdown,” McNaughton said.
“Individual crystals of rutile can survive unchanged even when the rocks that once hosted them have been weathered away over time – like tiny time capsules preserving a record of now-vanished geology.”
According to the research, assessing the original chemistry of deeply weathered rocks can be valuable in mineral exploration across much of Western Australia.
McNaughton said the discovery highlights the potential exploration value of rutile in the ancient landscape of Western Australia.
“By using our new approach to analysing rutile in the early stages of mineral exploration, geologists could quickly establish whether or not local rocks may have experienced a mineralising event” he said.
Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia chief executive officer Nicole Roocke said the research provides mineral exploration companies with a new way of quickly refining their search for undiscovered ore bodies.
“This represents an important step towards faster and more efficient exploration to support the discovery of the next generation of ore deposits hidden beneath the surface of the state,” she said.
“By supporting this research, the Western Australian government is helping our exploration industry develop the tools it needs to succeed.”