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The primary aim of this project is to map and correlate lithospheric architecture (crust + upper mantle, 200 to >400 km thickness), mineral systems and metal endowment through space and time, seeding paradigm shifts in (1) understanding the evolution of the earth and (2) exploration for giant ore systems in a wide range of commodities, including Au, Ni and Fe.

This project reflects the assembly of a remarkable brain trust and marks a unique convergence of advances in analytical capability, intense industry interest and concomitant levels of funding. The project will also be the first to examine lithospheric architecture, its control on upper-crustal geology (stratigraphy, structure, mineral systems) through time by integrating structural, geophysical, geochemical and isotopic studies from the sub-grain scale to the scale of entire cratons.The study will focus on the time slice across the Neoarchean to Paleoproterozoic time periods between 2.7-1.7 billion years ago (Ga). This critical time period in Earth history is not only well endowed with mineral resources, but also reflects a fundamental transition in the geodynamic evolution of our planet, which profoundly and irreversibly impacted on the nature of the Earth’s biosphere-hydrosphere-atmosphere.

Recent work in the Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia (Champion and Cassidy, 2007; Mole et al., 2010; ARC LP0776780) has applied multi-isotopic analyses of zircons and whole-rock intrusive and volcanic rocks to reveal how the lithosphere has evolved through time (Figure 2). This lithospheric architecture is seen to control variations observed in mafic-ultramafic stratigraphy, as well as the distribution of komatiite-hosted nickel mineral systems through time (Mole et al., 2010; Begg et al. Econ. Geol., in press). Furthermore, work by McCuaig et al.  (in press) has shown how this architecture correlates with other stratigraphic and metamorphic variations and the distribution of other mineral systems such as iron and gold.

The new study build on these recent research outcomes in the Yilgarn Craton and will produce similar multi-isotopic data sets over Paleoproterozoic terranes, in order to test (1) if the deep lithospheric architecture can be effectively mapped by isotopic proxy and (2) if the interpreted deep architecture exerts similar controls on observed variations in the upper crust, particularly on the spatial and temporal distribution of mineral systems. Specifically, the multi-modular study will address the Birimian Terranes of West Africa (2.2-2.0 Ma), building upon and integrating the AMIRA P934a WAXI-2 initiative, and the Tanami Inlier (1.9-1.7 Ma), building upon preliminary work completed as part of MERIWA M389 (Joly et al., 2010). The study takes advantages of the latest advances in technology, employing novel approaches to imaging the lithospheric architecture through the isotopic characterisation of igneous (volcanic and intrusive rocks) and sedimentary rocks. This integrated approach has never before been undertaken at the scale of this project.

The maps of fundamental lithospheric architecture through time produced during this study will fundamentally impact on exploration strategies (through the correlation with mineral deposit genesis and location), and on the hypotheses for Earth’s evolution over this unique and critical period of its history. It is anticipated that this study will be a benchmark for crustal evolution and mineralisation studies in Precambrian terranes.

The study firmly establishes CET as a leader in this area of research and in West African geology. Furthermore, the project is a clear demonstration of how CET is effectively leveraging maximum scientific and industry-relevant outcomes for its industry partners.


  • AngloGold Ashanti Limited
  • AusAID
  • Azumah Resources Limited
  • Bureau des Mines et de la Géologie du Burkina
  • Centre de Recherches Géologiques et Minières - Niger
  • Department of Mines and Geology of Togo
  • Direction National de la Géologie République de Guineé
  • Direction Nationale de la Géologie et des Mines - Mali
  • Drake Resources Limited
  • First Quantum Minerals Ltd
  • Geological Survey Department - Ghana
  • Gold Fields International Services Ltd
  • Goldbelt Resources Limited
  • Golden Star Resources Ltd
  • IAMGOLD Corp.
  • Lihir Gold Limited (Now Newcrest)
  • Ministère des Mines et de L'Industrie Senegal
  • Ministry of Land, Mines and Energy - Liberia
  • OMRG l'Office Mauritanien de Recherches Geologiques
  • Red Back Mining (now Kinross Gold)
  • Resolute Mining Limited
  • Rio Tinto
  • SEMAFO Inc
  • Vale
  • Volta Resources Inc
Research Providers

  • Centre for Exploration Targeting - University of Western Australia
  • Czech Geological Survey
  • Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)
  • Nancy Universite
  • Université de Toulouse
  • Université d'Orléans
  • Université Montpellier
  • University of Ouagadougou
  • University of the Witwatersrand
  • Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minieres (BRGM)
  • Ecole Nationale d'Ingeneurs