Mineral deposits linked to tectonic evolution

11 January 2012


The McDonald Ranges in the Arunta region of central Australia contains rocks formed during the break-up of the supercontinent Rodinia and sits on a crustal block thought to have been involved in the assembly of Nuna. Copyright Geoscience Australia.

The McDonald Ranges in the Arunta
region of central Australia contains
rocks formed during the break-up of
the supercontinent Rodinia and sits on
a crustal block thought to have been
involved in the assembly of Nuna.
© Geoscience Australia.


Scientists investigating Australia's significant mineral deposits believe they may be linked to the formation and break-up of supercontinents.

Geologist Dr David Huston says the history of supercontinents could indicate where large mineral, petroleum and coal deposits may be found in the future.

The evaluation of Australia's geology and geochronology, along with analysis of various data from seismic, airborne electromagnetic, radiometric, magnetotelluric, magnetic and gravity surveys has revealed a complex geological history over four billion years.

"This research indicates that much of Australia's geology, along with its mineral deposits, are the consequence of the amalgamation and break-up of the supercontinents Vaalbara, Kenorland, Nuna, Rodinia and Pangea and finally, Gondwana," Dr Huston said. "There is a strong clustering of resources associated with the coming together and break-up of these supercontinents and they include some of Australia's most significant mineral and hydrocarbon deposits," he said.

The research indicates that one of Australia's most important gold provinces centred on Kalgoorlie in Western Australia may be the product of the formation of Kenorland about 2.7 to 2.6 billion years ago.

Dr Huston said it was also evident that the major zinc-lead-silver and copper deposits in Broken Hill and northwest Queensland and the giant Olympic Dam iron-oxide-copper-gold deposit in South Australia formed as Nuna broke up about 1.7 to 1.5 billion years ago.

"It is also likely that most of Australia's hydrocarbon resources are a result of the break-up of Pangea and Gondwana between 250 and 35 million years ago," he said.

"This supercontinent history has been a significant influence on the distribution of minerals, petroleum and coal and understanding this could lead to the location of further large deposits of resource in the future," Dr Huston said.

Topic contact: media@ga.gov.au Last updated: October 4, 2013