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Australian Examples

The challenges associated with exploring under cover are not unique to Nevada Australia , the world’s third largest gold producer, also has vast, prospective, covered areas adjacent to areas of significant mineralization that remain underexplored.  Australia ’s industry has used the same conventional exploration methodologies to explore its covered areas as Nevada ’s with similar results: new discoveries have not been forthcoming.

Mining is an integral part of Australia ’s economy, but like Nevada ’s, its industry faces falling production and dwindling reserves.  Government funded agencies, such as the Australian Cooperative Research Centre for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration (“CRC LEME”) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (“CSIRO”) have been tasked with finding new ways to explore Australia ’s covered areas.  Acknowledging the limitations of traditional exploration techniques, the researchers have turned to water chemistry:

“Traditional mineral exploration methods used in regions of outcrop face challenges when applied to areas of transported cover, especially where this cover is greater than a few metres thick. Different exploration tools are needed to explore effectively in this environment. Groundwater is a geochemical sampling medium that moves through the subsurface, is easily collected and can be analysed with great accuracy and sensitivity. It may have flowed near mineralisation and retained a chemical ‘memory’ or fingerprint of such an encounter.”  (CRC LEME)

The Australian exploration community has recognized that groundwater is a natural sampling medium that interacts with bedrock and can provide information about it.  To evaluate the potential of water chemistry as an exploration tool, the CRC LEME completed a water chemistry case study in Australia ’s Curnamona Provence , home to the famous Broken Hill deposit.  Approximately 90% of the Provence ’s bedrock is covered; the mining industry appreciates the potential to find significant Broken Hill type mineralization beneath the cover and the CRC LEME investigation aimed to test if water chemistry could be applied to this search.  The researchers collected over 350 groundwater samples and analyzed them for gold and other trace elements.  The results are significant: they show that groundwater chemistry does reflect bedrock geology.  The researchers concluded: (1) that water chemistry (“hydrogeochemistry”) is a necessary exploration tool to explore under cover, and (2) that water chemistry exploration can lead to significant cost savings by delineating areas of interest under cover, ranking geophysical anomalies, and vectoring towards mineralization.

“Hydrogeochemistry is a very useful tool and should be part of any multidisciplinary mineral exploration campaign....  By using the bore water supply infrastructure (existing wells), where it exists, mineral explorers can save substantial amounts of operating capital, and resort to expensive drilling only in smaller, carefully targeted areas.” (CRC LEME)

Building on the study in Curnamona Provence, Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (“CSIRO”), has funded several regional groundwater chemistry studies to understand and characterize the groundwater chemistry surrounding gold mineralization, and with the support of CSIRO, CRC LEME has completed a four year research program titled “Hydrogeochemistry for mineral exploration under cover” aimed at developing standardized water chemistry sampling procedures for the industry and advancing water chemistry as an exploration tool.  This study includes 928 samples from four different mining districts in central Victoria Province and provides the Australian industry the baseline context to begin using groundwater chemistry to find new deposits in Australia .

This is the same work that NGE has already completed in Nevada and is now building from to advance new projects in covered areas in Nevada .  However, whereas NGE has pioneered groundwater chemistry exploration in Nevada alone, Australia ’s exploration industry is enthusiastically endorsing water chemistry exploration with strong academic, government, and industry support:

The project boasts 27 industry sponsors.  This is a clear vote of confidence in the project by Australia ’s mineral explorers, who hope the project will point towards undiscovered mineral deposits.” (CSIRO)