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Origin of Koppamurra: Australia’s first ionic clay hosted rare earth element prospect

Discover the origins and distribution of a unique style of rare earth element mineralisation in south-east SA.


Landscape paleogeography at the time of REE ore formation (ca. 1 Ma). Potential sources of REE and host clay may include the Pleistocene Mt Burr volcanos, or the early Paleozoic Glenelg River Complex. Nd isotope analysis of ore material should fingerprint the source of ore metals.

Rare earth elements (REE), such as neodymium and dysprosium are essential for turbines and electric motors that will underpin society’s transition to renewable green energy and electric vehicle transportation. Australia is well positioned to be a secure global supplier of REE in the coming decades.

The newly-discovered Koppamurra REE prospect in SE South Australia has potential to become an important source of REE: it is an ionic clay hosted deposit––the only one of its kind in Australia––that is in the earliest stages of exploration and development.

Currently, little is known of the geology of this deposit, including how the deposit formed, and where the REE and hosting clays were sourced from. Potential sources include recent volcanic systems in the Mount Gambier region (e.g., Mt Burr) to the south, or the Paleozoic Glenelg River igneous/metamorphic complex to the east (see image).

This honours project will work in tandem with an industry partner to examine the geology and ore setting of the Koppamurra Prospect and will evaluate the origin of REE and clay minerals using Nd isotope analysis and investigation of accessory resistant detrital/igneous minerals.

By combining these high precision isotope data with detailed petrographic evaluation of the ore samples, you will be able to unravel the enigmatic origin of this unique ore style, which will assist in exploration and resource definition in the area, and potentially across Australia.

Carl Spandler


Associate Professor Carl Spandler and Dr Juraj Farkas

Research area: Mineral and energy systems, Tectonics and solid earth processes

Recommended honours enrolment: Honours in Geology

Tagged in Honours projects - Geology, Honours projects - Carl Spandler, Honours Projects - Juraj Farkas

Competition: Young Scientist of the Year

How do we feed the world’s growing population? How do we save our wildlife from extinction? Got an idea that will build a brighter, greener world?

Australian high school students are invited to submit a short video about one of Australia’s big science challenges.

Video competition