BREAKTHROUGH MINERAL DISCOVERY
September 3rd, 2015
A team of Curtin University geoscientists has discovered the earliest known occurrence of reidite, one of Earth’s rarest minerals. At 1.2 billion years, the finding is more than double the age of the previous oldest known occurrence at 450 million years.
Working with the University of St Andrews, the team, led by Professor Steven Reddy from the Institute for Geoscience Research at Curtin’s Western Australian School of Mines, discovered the reidite in shocked zircon from impact ejecta at Stac Fada in Scotland. He said reidite is important because it is only known to form in nature during meteorite impact events.
“The discovery of this Precambrian occurrence indicates the potential for using the presence of reidite to indicate and record very ancient impact events,” Professor Reddy said.
“It is a breakthrough discovery that will help determine terrestrial impact events which have had a profound influence on Earth’s geological, geochemical and biological evolution.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Development Professor Graeme Wright said Curtin is at the forefront of high-impact research and development in minerals and energy sectors.
“In recent years our research activity, particularly in geosciences, has grown significantly, driving Curtin’s rapid rise up the international university rankings,” Professor Wright said.
All natural occurrences of reidite are associated with the transformation of the mineral zircon during the high pressures and temperatures associated with meteorite impact events. However, the record of Precambrian impacts is poorly constrained due to the dynamic nature of plate tectonics, erosion and deposition of younger rocks, which may destroy or cover the evidence of ancient impacts.
The reidite was discovered using advanced mineral characterisation technologies housed in the John De Laeter Centre (JdLC) at Curtin University. Professor Reddy used a technique called electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) to effectively discriminate between reidite and its compositionally identical host zircon.
The discovery paves the way for developing reidite as a proxy for meteorite impact events that can be extended back in geological time to provide insights into Earth’s early impact record.
Professor Reddy’s discovery has been published in the prestigious Geology journal and can be viewed online.
On the 8th July 2015, staff at the John de Laeter Centre (JdLC) hosted a two-hour workshop to discuss current and upcoming projects focused on geochemistry data discovery.
The audience comprised a score of people from around Australia with representatives present from Curtin University's Office of Research and Development, Curtin University Library, CSIRO, ANDS, NCI, GSWA, MRIWA and AMMRF.
After delivering a presentation on their recently completed Digital Mineralogy Library project, the JdLC hosts invited their visitors to offer feedback and discuss opportunities for new projects to further assist researchers in managing and disseminating high-value geochemistry datasets.
The response was positive with many participants sharing their views on the importance of data management and discovery, and recognising the contribution that the JdLC has made in this area. Dr Lesley Wyborn (NCI) was "pleased to see the JdLC and the community making progress in achieving what [she] has been trying to achieve for the last 30 years in Australian Geochemistry Laboratories ".
JdLC is looking forward to expanding its data delivery services to include geochemistry data from its Sensitive High Resolution Ion Micro Probe (SHIMP) and laser ablation instruments in the future. Through collaborations with state and national organisations and businesses this project will see more data being made readily available to researchers, industry and the public. This will foster a richer scientific understanding of our country and promote new discoveries.
See poster for more about Digital Mineralogy Library.
* The Digital Mineralogy Library project is supported by the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) and AuScope through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy Program. The hardware component of the project was funded via the Australian Research Council with support from Curtin University, the Geological Survey of Western Australia, University of Western Australia and Murdoch University.
The project is being jointly run between the John de Laeter Centre, Curtin University Library and Curtin Information Technology Services.
As the downturn in mineral prices continues to drag on Australia’s economy, a project led by Perth’s Curtin University is seeking to create an open access digital mineral inventory of WA that it hopes could stimulate interest in further exploration in the state.
Industrial Minerals by Cameron Chai, Friday, April 10, 2015
The declining fortunes of Australia’s mining industry have been a graphic illustration of how the collapse of the commodities boom can pull the rug out from beneath entire economies.
Data from the financial year 2013-2014 indicates that Western Australia’s (WA) minerals and energy output alone was worth $122bn for the year, dominated by iron ore, which accounted for approximately 60% of the sector’s income. This equates to almost 65% of Australia’s national output, with minerals being Australia’s major export earner. The collapse of iron ore prices to below $50/tonne, down from a peak of $190/tonne four years ago, has hit WA hard and the state is now urgently seeking ways to stimulate its mineral sector and diversify its resource base away from iron ore.
One avenue being considered is the public documentation of WA’s mineral resources. It is hoped that by allowing free, open access to this information, further interest in developing domestic mineral reserves will be stimulated and create a more varied and sustainable mineral economy.
In WA’s capital Perth, the state government is sitting on a collection of over 2,000 heavy mineral concentrate samples. These have been systematically collected and meticulously catalogued by the Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) over the last 30 years of geological mapping. The mineralogical makeup of these samples is largely unknown, but technological advances in both microanalytical and geoinformatics science may shed new light on the contents of the vials.
Left photo: (Left to right) Elaine Miller, deputy manager of the JdLC Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility and Adam Brown, JdLC software engineer for the Open Access Mineral Map project, undergoing TIMA training with Dr Kamran Khajehpour from AXT.
The MMF is involved in the creation of the Digital Mineralogy Hub facility which is using cutting-edge scanning electron microscope technology to construct a mineralogical and geodata library for the Australian continent. Read more.
We are currently involved in an exciting new project with CSIRO and UWA called the Advanced Resource Characterisation Facility which will bring new atom probe and ion beam technology to Western Australia.
The first major facility being developed under the auspices of the National Resource Sciences Precinct (NRSP) was announced by the Australian Government, in August. A $12.4 million grant, as part of the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF), has been dedicated to the establishment of a new Advanced Resource Characterisation Facility (ARCF) in Perth. Building on existing infrastructure, the ARCF will draw together state-of-the-art equipment for geoscience and resource characterisation already available between the NRSP's foundation partners, CSIRO, Curtin University and UWA, and establish three new world-class instruments to provide a global hub for 'metre-to-atomic-scale' analyses of rock cores. The total project value (including the SIEF grant) invested by the partners is $37.8 million over five years.
The new equipment includes a Maia Mapper (for core-scale chemical mapping) at ARRC, a nanoSIMS (secondary ion mass spectrometer, for sub-micron elemental and isotopic mapping) at UWA and a geoscience atom probe (for sub-nanoscale characterisation) at Curtin University. Combined with the partners' existing equipment, and data management, processing and integration made possible by the Pawsey Centre supercomputer, the ARCF will provide a multiscale approach to the characterisation of geological materials unmatched anywhere in the world.
The nanoSIMS and geoscience atom probe are existing (albeit very rare) commercial instruments, and should be delivered, installed and commissioned within three years. In contrast the Maia Mapper, an x-ray microprobe elemental imaging system developed by CSIRO and Brookhaven National Laboratory, currently exists as a prototype model. It uses the Australian synchrotron's x-ray fluorescence microprobe beamline to produce high definition, quantitative elemental images with microscopic detail in real time. CSIRO will be adapting the detector technology to a laboratory-scale x-ray source over the next three years, creating a routine-use instrument for high resolution x-ray microprobe imaging. Once operational, the laboratory-scale Maia Mapper will be able to create nanoscale elemental maps of a 2 × 1 cm rock sample in about six hours, providing enormous increases in sensitivity, detection limit and spatial resolution over conventional systems.
In bringing a unique and world-leading suite of characterisation facilities together, the ARCF will develop a collaborative and workflow approach to sample characterisation, allowing geoscientists to investigate drill core samples down to the atomic scale, without losing contextual information in the process. The facility will provide routine, multi-scale element mapping of large samples, through to atomic scale geochronology, integrated with compositional and textural information. Since complexity is inherent in drill core samples, with diverse structures and textures related to deposition and mineralogical variation at multiple scales, this ability will allow the true determination of the timing of fluid flow, fluid–rock interaction, metal deposition and reservoir diagenesis, within a complete geological context.
The richness of this information will further our understanding of the processes by which materials are transported and precipitated in geological systems, with fundamental implications for the mineral and petroleum exploration, mining and processing operations of the future.