Australia develops world-first heavy minerals mapping tool to aid net zero efforts

Image credit: Madeleine King MP

Geoscience Australia and Curtin University have developed a new mapping tool to support the discovery of heavy minerals needed for the country’s net zero transition. 

Launched as part of the Australian government’s Exploring for the Future program, the Heavy Mineral Map of Australia was developed using heavy mineral samples found in floodplain sediments across the country. 

Heavy minerals are used globally for mineral and energy exploration, including in the search for critical minerals. 

Using samples from floodplain sediments, geologists are able to determine the likelihood of mineral deposits upstream. 

Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia Madeleine King said the new Heavy Mineral Map of Australia is a world-first in precompetitive geoscience and is designed to deliver a continent-wide view of heavy mineral distribution. 

“Nowhere else in the world have we seen datasets that show the distribution of heavy minerals at a continental scale that are freely available to the public,” Minister King said.  

“This map sets us apart and, crucially, will help us forge ahead on the road to net zero.”  

The samples used in the project were sourced from the National Geochemical Survey of Australia archive. 

More than 145 million mineral grains from 1,315 samples were analysed over the last two years to develop the maps, identifying 163 different mineral species. 

Geoscience Australia used a cloud-based mineral network analysis tool to facilitate the exploration of such a vast dataset and enable the rapid visualisation, exploration, and discovery of relationships between the heavy minerals. 

This resulted in the first-ever heavy minerals study to prepare and analyse the national set of samples in the same way, unlike in other parts of the world that combine generations of smaller surveys. 

“Heavy minerals have been underutilised in exploring for critical minerals, the Heavy Mineral Map of Australia will help change that,” said Minister King. “To unearth new minerals, we must explore in new and innovative ways.”