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Superbasin research to unearth mineral potential

Researchers from the University of Adelaide (UA) will perform an extensive geological study across four states and territories to benefit Australia’s resources industry.

The study of the Centralian Superbasin – rocks that were once part of a vast inland sea – will be investigated under a grant awarded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The $400,000 in ARC Linkage Project funding over three years will enable the university’s team of scientists to use new methods to explore the origins of the Superbasin, the remains of which span the Northern Territory and large areas of South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland, and are spread across a large chunk of central Australia.

Professor Alan Collins, a tectonic geologist with the University’s Department of Earth Sciences who is one of the study team led by Dr Juraj Farkas, said the research will also benefit Australia’s resources economy.

“It helps us pinpoint where deposits of copper and other minerals might be located,” he said.

Collins said the research is aimed at using new ways of dating ancient sedimentary rocks in deep time to build a framework of how the Australian continent evolved. This is understood through the time of evolution of large complex animals, extreme climate change and changing chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans.

“In most of central Australia, when you are out there you are walking on rocks that were part of this giant inland sea,” he said.

“The chemistry tells us a story . . . we’re fundamentally interested in how our planet evolved – how did we get to be different from Venus or Mars, for instance, and in building a framework that tells us about Earth before fossils.

“The information about how our continent and how the Earth system evolved is held within these rocks and we aim to use new dating and geochemical techniques to unlock the information preserved in these rocks.”

Novel isotope techniques, advances in analytical instrumentation and world-leading laser-based dating of sedimentary rocks will be among the new methods used in the study.

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