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Tracing metal pathways from host to vein using traditional and novel metal isotopes

Investigate how important economic metals are transported through the crust to mineral deposits.

mineralised rocks

Host (background) and mineralised (foreground) rocks from deposits close to Wheal Ellen and Wheal Margaret.

The primary aim of this project is to apply a combination of traditional and novel metal isotope tracers to host rocks and mineralised veins to trace the sources and geochemical pathways of metals forming ore deposits.

Specifically, traditional radiogenic isotopes of Sr and Nd, coupled with stable Cu isotopes, will be applied across a range of samples from unaltered or relatively less metamorphosed units of the host rocks through to metamorphosed/altered and ore-bearing sequences and veins.

The project site will be either the Wheal Ellen Pb-Zn-Ag-(Cu-Au) system or Wheal Margaret Pb-Zn-Ag system, both syn-sedimentary, exhalative deposits within the Tapanappa formation of the Cambrian Kanmantoo trough metasediments.

Systematic comparison of ‘ore-bearing’ versus ‘barren’ sequences, targeted with a suite of isotope tracers, will help us to identify (i) possible sources of base metals, and also (ii) the associated “isotope signatures” of fluids or ore-forming processes that led to the formation mineralisation.

Constraining this to a small-scale site where the structure and petrography can also be documented will aid the understanding of how metals are transported to their final enrichment in base metal deposits. This has the potential to be used in the future for ‘isotope vectoring’ of economic deposits.

Lucy McGee


Dr Lucy McGee, Dr Juraj Farkas and Peter Rolley

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

Recommended honours enrolment: Honours in Geology

Tagged in Honours projects - Geology, Honours Projects - Lucy McGee, 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