The role of geoscience breakthroughs in gold exploration success: Yilgarn Craton, Australia

G. Neil Phillips, J. R. Vearncombe, R. R. Anand, C. R.M. Butt, E. Eshuys, D. I. Groves, Raymond E. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Australia experienced a major increase in gold production during the 1980s, and this is reflected in the production of ~250 tonnes of gold per annum since then. Much of the production has come from the Archean Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia, and mostly from gold-only deposits. Discovery is the factor best accounting for the outperformance of Yilgarn gold production in a global context, and both greenfield and brownfield exploration success have been essential. Scientific input to gold exploration evolved rapidly from 1980 and is implicated in the exploration success in the Yilgarn. Six scientific breakthroughs had changed the nature of almost all Yilgarn gold exploration thinking by 1990 and appear to have been important components of the exploration success. Breakthroughs relate to primary gold geology (timing and structural control, favourable host rocks, gold-related alteration), and gold in the regolith environment (landscape evolution, gold geochemistry, targeted sampling). These six breakthroughs changed paradigms from which the Western Australian industry has not reverted. These breakthroughs were not necessarily a key part of the original aims of the researchers. Common features in the development of the breakthroughs were small, but persistent, research groups with an understanding of industry, a willingness to challenge dogma, development of informal industry linkages and the ability to formulate and tackle key questions. Breakthroughs led to applications not considered when the research was conceived. The breakthrough ideas were eventually available globally, but they were not equally applicable and not equally accepted and adopted. An openness to new ideas may correlate with the massive and ongoing exploration success witnessed in the Yilgarn goldfields.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103009
JournalOre Geology Reviews
Volume112
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019

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Gold
craton
gold
industry
Industry
Geochemistry
landscape evolution
structural control
regolith
Geology
host rock
Archean
Deposits
geochemistry
Rocks
geology
Sampling
sampling

Cite this

Phillips, G. N., Vearncombe, J. R., Anand, R. R., Butt, C. R. M., Eshuys, E., Groves, D. I., & Smith, R. E. (2019). The role of geoscience breakthroughs in gold exploration success: Yilgarn Craton, Australia. Ore Geology Reviews, 112, [103009]. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oregeorev.2019.103009
Phillips, G. Neil ; Vearncombe, J. R. ; Anand, R. R. ; Butt, C. R.M. ; Eshuys, E. ; Groves, D. I. ; Smith, Raymond E. / The role of geoscience breakthroughs in gold exploration success : Yilgarn Craton, Australia. In: Ore Geology Reviews. 2019 ; Vol. 112.
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The role of geoscience breakthroughs in gold exploration success : Yilgarn Craton, Australia. / Phillips, G. Neil; Vearncombe, J. R.; Anand, R. R.; Butt, C. R.M.; Eshuys, E.; Groves, D. I.; Smith, Raymond E.

In: Ore Geology Reviews, Vol. 112, 103009, 01.09.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

TY - JOUR

T1 - The role of geoscience breakthroughs in gold exploration success

T2 - Yilgarn Craton, Australia

AU - Phillips, G. Neil

AU - Vearncombe, J. R.

AU - Anand, R. R.

AU - Butt, C. R.M.

AU - Eshuys, E.

AU - Groves, D. I.

AU - Smith, Raymond E.

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Y1 - 2019/9/1

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AB - Australia experienced a major increase in gold production during the 1980s, and this is reflected in the production of ~250 tonnes of gold per annum since then. Much of the production has come from the Archean Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia, and mostly from gold-only deposits. Discovery is the factor best accounting for the outperformance of Yilgarn gold production in a global context, and both greenfield and brownfield exploration success have been essential. Scientific input to gold exploration evolved rapidly from 1980 and is implicated in the exploration success in the Yilgarn. Six scientific breakthroughs had changed the nature of almost all Yilgarn gold exploration thinking by 1990 and appear to have been important components of the exploration success. Breakthroughs relate to primary gold geology (timing and structural control, favourable host rocks, gold-related alteration), and gold in the regolith environment (landscape evolution, gold geochemistry, targeted sampling). These six breakthroughs changed paradigms from which the Western Australian industry has not reverted. These breakthroughs were not necessarily a key part of the original aims of the researchers. Common features in the development of the breakthroughs were small, but persistent, research groups with an understanding of industry, a willingness to challenge dogma, development of informal industry linkages and the ability to formulate and tackle key questions. Breakthroughs led to applications not considered when the research was conceived. The breakthrough ideas were eventually available globally, but they were not equally applicable and not equally accepted and adopted. An openness to new ideas may correlate with the massive and ongoing exploration success witnessed in the Yilgarn goldfields.

KW - Australia

KW - Breakthroughs

KW - Exploration

KW - Gold

KW - Regolith

KW - Yilgarn

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U2 - 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2019.103009

DO - 10.1016/j.oregeorev.2019.103009

M3 - Review article

VL - 112

JO - Ore Geology Reviews

JF - Ore Geology Reviews

SN - 0169-1368

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