Sea-level changes and buried islands in a complex coastal palaeolandscape in the South of Western Australia: Implications for greenfield mineral exploration

I. González-Álvarez, W. Salama, R. R. Anand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Weathering intensity changes due to climatic variability across tectonically stable portions of continental crust can generate a thick and extensive weathered cover, resulting in regolith-dominated terrains (RDTs). Mineral exploration in RDTs is challenging because of the lack of bedrock outcrop, and the difficulty of linking surface regolith geochemistry to the geology at depth. Complex weathering obscures the expression of the basement geochemistry in the regolith, and therefore the footprints of mineral systems are difficult to detect. The southeast of the Yilgarn Craton and the Albany-Fraser Orogen (AFO) in the south of Western Australia is an RDT that extends along the coastline and the Eucla basin.This study proposes a landscape evolution model of the AFO, driven by transgression-regression sea-level changes that resulted in the formation of numerous islands and development of estuarine zones. This model contrasts with the river system-dominated landscape evolution present in the Yilgarn Craton. This difference has significant implications for mineral exploration and geochemical interpretation of the regolith in this region.Weathering profiles developed "on inland" and "on island" are thicker and more mature than those developed in sea-inundated areas. Even if in the Yilgarn Craton local areas display reworking of weathering profiles and other complexities from Permian, non-marine Tertiary sediments and Quaternary fluvial and aeolian sediments, at a regional scale, if vertical geochemical mobility of elements has occurred, "on inland" and "on island" are more reliable for understanding geochemical anomaly-basement relationships, whereas the "marine inundated" areas require a more detailed investigation, because of the role of marine reworking of weathering profiles and possible mixture of sediments from different provenances.Landscape changes from the topographically high, dissected Yilgarn environment with thick saprolite development and uneven basement topography, to the nearly flat regions dominated by sand dunes and thin saprolite development at the coastline. These regions are the result of the erosional and depositional effects of successive sea-level transgression-regression cycles. Within this framework, the following four different regolith settings have been identified in a progressive change from Yilgarn Craton environments to the modern coastline: (1) Albany; (2) Kalgoorlie-Norseman; (3) Esperance; and (4) Neale.Mapping the palaeocoastlines, islands and estuarine zones, as well as the region of influence of marine limestones and sediments, can significantly improve the understanding of how surface geochemistry relates to the landscape, and how it links with the geology at depth, and therefore, how it may reflect the presence of mineral systems. Understanding the difference in the landscape evolution between the AFO and Yilgarn Craton is essential to properly calibrate mineral exploration protocols in both regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-499
Number of pages25
JournalOre Geology Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


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