Gold digger – scientists identify new areas for gold exploration

A study led by Monash geologists has provided new insights on where gold explorers should consider looking for the precious metal.

The geologists from the Monash School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment analysed the key characteristics of large gold deposits in central Victoria to work out the most favourable conditions for gold deposits.

The findings are published in Ore Geology Reviews.

“There have been major changes in our understanding of the geology of south eastern Australia in the last decade, in particular to the tectonic drivers in the region (i.e. the way the region formed),” said lead study author Emeritus Professor Chris Wilson from the Monash School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment.

“Gold deposits are formed by the same drivers, so an updated tectonic model explains why gold deposits are where they are,” he said.

“This is critical information for any gold exploration program.”

Although not the first study review of its kind, the Monash research is unique in that it’s the first to use the tectonic model developed in 2014 – a model which had input from Monash scientists.  The researchers used data from the Geological Survey of Victoria and Geoscience Australia.

The research team looked at five gold deposits, each of which either had produced one million ounces of gold, or, in the case of Costerfield, was likely to do so.

For each deposit, they analysed the timing(s) of the deposition of gold in the rocks and then related them back to the regional tectonic history and to the structures that could be seen in the mines.

“We were able to use the regional stress patterns to suggest areas of more favourable prospectivity,” said Professor Wilson.

“Our review highlights the importance of small fault movements and changes in fault directions that had previously been considered to be insignificant,” he said.

The geologists observed small changes in fault direction using the geophysical responses of the faults, even when they were covered.

“This means that explorers looking for gold deposits north of Bendigo, for example, can better prioritise more favourable ground,” Professor Wilson said.

“The insights may also assist in in-mine exploration by using the same technique.”

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