A team of Curtin University researchers have discovered a way to accurately measure the age of sulfide ore mineral systems in Western Australia, which could help uncover larger deposits.
The researchers found measuring the isotopes of rhenium and osmium could directly date common sulfide ore minerals, including iron ore and copper, and was effective at determining the age of the sulphide-hosted ore systems.
Mineral exploration is expected to benefit from improving the understanding of these mineral systems.
The research team was led by Neal McNaughton and Svetlana Tessalina, who used Curtin’s mass spectrometry facilities to measure the age of sulfide minerals in Western Australia.
“The ore minerals targeted by mining companies often form much later than the rocks in which we find them,” McNaughton said.
“By dating the valuable sulfide minerals directly, we will be better able to understand how ore deposits developed during Western Australia’s long geological history.”
According to McNaughton, the research could pave the way for discovering larger mineral deposits.
“Knowing which geological events were related to major ore systems can help us recognise other areas and types of rocks where valuable mineral deposits may still lie undiscovered beneath the surface,” he said.
The project received a grant of $341,650 with the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA) contributing $175,000.
MRIWA chief executive officer Nicole Roocke said the research was valuable to the resources industry.
“This research will provide Western Australia’s mineral exploration companies with important new understanding of how the state’s mineral systems developed,” Roocke said.
“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.”
“By supporting this research, the Western Australian government is helping our exploration industry develop the tools it needs to succeed.”