AUTOMATED MINERALOGY WORKSHOP
November 7th, 2015
A workshop was hosted by Curtin University and sponsored by AXT Pty Ltd on the 6th November to demonstrate the application and benefits of automated mineralogy to the minerals industry and academic research. Around 35 people from various research institutions, service providers and the mining industry attended the workshop from across Australia.
The day started with a tour of the John de Laeter Centre (JdLC) facilities incorporating the Tescan integrated mineral analyser (TIMA; http://www.axt.com.au/tescan-integrated-minerals-analyser-tima/#1447758549595-75758c9c-3358), which was the key instrument of relevance to the workshop. Dr Mark Aylmore, recently appointed to take on the role of Applied Mineralogist in the JdLC, chaired the workshop that included presentations from:
• Dr Kamran Khajehpour (AXT), who gave an overview of automated mineralogy and supported by Esben Kjaer (Struers) who gave a brief overview on sample preparation techniques.
• Prof Brent McInnes (Curtin JdLC), who demonstrated the applications of the TIMA to Archeology, Petrology, Geochemical Mapping, and the Characterisation of Mineral & Petroleum Systems.
• Kellie Jones (Northparkes Mines), who discussed the application of the TIMA to mining and mineral processing at the Northparkes Cu-Au operation.
• Marek Dosbaba (Tescan Orsay Holding), who reviewed the workflow of the TIMA software.
• Paul Gottlieb (Tescan Orsay Holding), who summarised the recent technological and software developments at Tescan and discussed future challenges for the TIMA and automated mineralogy.
Thanks to all at Curtin and AXT staff who were involved in the workshop. Special thanks goes to Petrina Beeton who organised the venue, catering and parking. With the success of this function it is anticipated further workshops on automated mineralogy will be held on an annual basis.
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.