Exploring for the future in Australia: characterizing and assessing the lithosphere for resource discovery

Karol Czarnota, John Willford, Dale Roberts, Roger Skirrow, David Huston, Evgeniy Bastrakov, Alan Yusen Ley-Cooper, Ross Stuart Brodie, Songfa Liu, Alastair Stewart, MarieAude Bonnardot, David C Champion, Tanya Fomin, Michael Doublier, Paul Henson, Jingming Duan, Alexei Gorbatov, Mark J Hoggard, Fred Richards, Stuart D WalshStephen Northey, Anthony Schofield, Geoff Fraser, Richard Blewett, James Murr

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Across much of the world the outcrop search space for resource exploration is all but exhausted thus the frontier lies undercover. To unlock this new search space the Australian Government initiated the $AU100 M Exploring for the Future program (2016-2020) focused on establishing an integrated resource prospectus over northern Australia for minerals, energy and groundwater. Here we showcase key advances by Geoscience Australia and collaborators from academia as well as State and Territory geological surveys in semi-continental characterization of the lithosphere from the surface down to the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary. New insights into geological architecture, Earth processes and contained mineral systems include: enhanced surface mineral maps using 30 years of Landsat data; establishment of spatially variable soil geochemistry baselines and anomaly detection using machine learning; semi-continental scale imaging of near surface geology utilizing the world’s largest airborne electromagnetic survey; world leading continental gravity, magnetics and radiometric datasets; systematic mapping to and of subsurface geology along four mega-sequence boundaries; identification of new crustal boundaries and ore controls using isotopes (Nd, Hf, Pb, U-Pb, Ar); discovery of new basins using onshore deep reflection seismic profiles; and mapping metasomatised mantle with ~50 km spaced long-period magnetotellurics (AusLAMP) and passive seismic (AusArray). All this data is integrated within a mineral systems framework to predict mineral potential undercover, often reducing the search space by 70%–90%. In addition the viability of resource development in remote Australia are modelled to further de-risk exploration by taking into account mining costs given the spatial distribution of cover-thickness, energy and transport infrastructure. This unprecedented program is resulting in one of the best-characterized pieces of lithosphere on Earth with clear implications for new resource discovery.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventFall Meeting of the American-Geophysical-Union 2019 - San Francisco, United States of America
Duration: 9 Dec 201913 Dec 2019


ConferenceFall Meeting of the American-Geophysical-Union 2019
Abbreviated titleAGU 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America
CitySan Francisco
Internet address

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