Industry interaction


GEMOC relies on a vigorous interaction with the mineral exploration industry at both the research and the teaching/training levels.  The research results of the Centre’s work are transferred to the industry and to the scientific community by:

collaborative industry-supported Honours, MSc and PhD projects

short courses relevant to the industry and government sector users, designed to communicate and transfer new technologies, techniques and knowledge in the discipline areas covered by the Key Centre

  one-on-one research collaborations and shorter-term collaborative research on industry problems involving national and international partners

  provision of high quality geochemical analyses with value-added interpretations in collaboration with industry and government organisations, extending our industry interface

  use of AccessMQ consultancies and collaborative industry projects, which employ and disseminate the technological developments carried out by the Centre

  GLITTER, an on-line data-reduction program for Laser Ablation ICPMS analysis, developed by GEMOC and CSIRO GEMOC participants, has been successfully commercialised and is available from GEMOC through AccessMQ (http://www.es.mq.edu.au/GEMOC/); the software is continuously upgraded

  collaborative relationships with technology manufacturers (more detail in the section on Technology Development)

     •    GEMOC (Macquarie) is the Australian demonstration site for Agilent Technologies LAM-ICPMS applications

     •    GEMOC (Macquarie) is an international test site for New Wave Research Lasers



GEMOC industry support includes:

  direct funding of research programs

  "in kind" funding including field support (Australia and overseas), access to proprietary databases, sample collections, digital datasets and support for GIS platforms

  logistic support for fieldwork for postgraduate projects

  collaborative research programs through ARC Linkage Projects and the Macquarie University External Collaborative Grants (MUECRG) and PhD program support

  assistance in the implementation of GIS technology in postgraduate programs

  participation of industry colleagues as guest lecturers in undergraduate units

  extended visits to Macquarie by industry personnel for interaction and research

  ongoing informal provision of advice and formal input as members of the Advisory Board


10 Industry Reports were completed for collaborative industry projects.

TerraneChron® studies (see Research Highlights) have enjoyed continued uptake by a significant segment of the global mineral exploration industry. This methodology, currently unique to GEMOC, requires the integration of data from three instruments (electron microprobe, LAM-ICPMS and LAM-MC-ICPMS) and delivers fast, cost-effective information on the tectonic history (with ages) of regional terranes (www.es.mq.edu.a cvfu/GEMOC/TerraneChron.html).

The ARC Linkage Project titled “Global Lithosphere Architecture Mapping” (GLAM) continued with full industry partner support following the takeover of WMC Resources by BHP Billiton. Planning and workshop sessions at Macquarie with participants from BHP Billiton and GEMOC, and visits by Macquarie researchers to Perth, were key activities in 2008, GLAMfollowing a successful application for a new 3-year Linkage Project. Dr Graham Begg spent significant research time at GEMOC through 2008 as part of the close collaborative working pattern for this project. Sub-licencing agreement was executed with Minerals Targeting International to accommodate Dr Begg’s new role (in relationship to Macquarie, BHPB, and the GLAM project) as Director of this company.


BHP Billiton staff visited for several days to discuss results from the ARC Linkage Project (see GLAM Research Highlight), and plan for the future. Back row (L-R): Elena Belousova, Sue O’Reilly, Norm Pearson, Nick Haywood, Craig O’Neill, Lev Natapov, Graham Begg and Bill Griffin.


GEMOC’s development of a method to analyse trace elements in diamond has opened up potential further developments and applications relevant to industry, ranging from diamond fingerprinting for a range of purposes to improving the knowledge framework for diamond exploration. Rio Tinto continued to support an ARC Linkage Project on Diamond Fingerprinting. Dr Debora Araujo has been employed as a Research Associate on the project and has carried out an extensive program of method development and diamond analysis.

In 2007-2008 GEMOC developed a technique for dating the intrusion of kimberlites and lamproites using LAM-ICPMS U-Pb analysis of groundmass perovskite (see GEMOC Publication #505). This rapid, low-cost application has proven very attractive to the diamond exploration industry, and has led to several small collaborative projects; it also will be applied in the new ARC Linkage project sponsored by De Beers.

During 2008, GEMOC increased its collaboration with CERCAMS, the Centre for Russian and Central EurAsian Mineral Studies at the Natural History Museum, London, that serves the international mineral deposits community as a centre for research into the geodynamics and metallogenesis of the Former Soviet Union and neighbouring territories.

A continuing collaborative research relationship with New South Wales Geological Survey is applying TerraneChron® to investigations of the provenance of targeted sequences in Paleozoic sedimentary terranes of eastern Australia, and the development of the Macquarie Arc.

Industry visitors spent varying periods at GEMOC in 2008 to discuss our research and technology development (see visitor list, Appendix 3). This face-to-face interaction has proved highly effective both for GEMOC researchers and industry colleagues.

DIATREEM continued to provide LAM-ICPMS analyses of garnets and chromites to the diamond-exploration industry on a collaborative basis.

GEMOC publications, preprints and non-proprietary reports are available on request for industry libraries.

GEMOC was prominent in delivering keynote and invited talks and workshop modules at national and international industry peak conferences in 2008. Sue O’Reilly has been a member of the organising committee for the SGA Conference in Townsville in 2009. See Appendix 4 for abstract titles and GEMOC Publications.

A new ARC Linkage project was awarded with de Beers as Industry Partner (see below).


Elena Elena


Elena Belousova, Steven Cooper and Prof Alexandr Kremenetsky from Institute of Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Crystal Chemistry of Rare Elements (IMGRE) collecting samples of mineral sands in SA and WA.


A new collaborative research project aimed at developing an integrated approach to understanding the formation of the mineral sand deposits using Australian deposits as a world benchmark, and to improve exploration strategies employed in Australia and in Russia was initiated in collaboration with Professor Alexandr Kremenetsky from Institute of Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Crystal Chemistry of Rare Elements (IMGRE), PIRSA and Iluka Resources.




These are brief descriptions of current gemoc projects that have direct cash support from industry with either formal ARC or Macquarie University Grant status, and timeframes of at least one year. Projects are both national and global. In addition to these formal projects, many shorter projects are directly funded by industry alone, and the results of these feed into our basic research database (with varied confidentiality considerations). Such projects are administered by AccessMQ, Macquarie’s commercial entity.

GEMOC’s industry collaborative projects are designed to develop the strategic and applied aspects of the basic research programs based on understanding the architecture of the lithosphere and the nature of Earth’s geodynamic processes that have controlled the evolution of the lithosphere and its important discontinuities. Most of the industry collaborative projects rely on geochemical information from the Geochemical Analysis Unit in GEMOC and especially on novel methodologies developed by (and some unique to) GEMOC.

Geochemical data on crustal and mantle rocks are being integrated with tectonic analyses and large-scale datasets (including geophysical data) to understand the relationship between lithosphere domains and large-scale mineralisation.

The use of mantle sulfides to date mantle events, and the characterisation of crustal terrane development using U-Pb dating and Hf isotopic compositions of zircons provide more information for integration with geophysical modelling. TerraneChron® (see Research Highlights) is an important tool for characterising the tectonic history and crustal evolution of terranes on the scale of 10 – 100 km and delivers a cost-effective exploration tool to the mineral (and potentially petroleum) exploration industry.

The recent breakthrough in developing a robust methodology to analyse the trace elements in diamonds quantitatively is another world-first for GEMOC. In addition to providing unique knowledge about the nature and compositions of deep mantle fluids that has led to a new hypothesis for how diamonds form in the Earth’s mantle (see Research Highlights 2007, p. 27, 30), it has potential practical applications to diamond fingerprinting for forensic applications and to better prediction of targets for diamond exploration.

Formal projects known to be funded for 2009:

Composition, structure and evolution of the lithospheric mantle beneath southern Africa: improving area selection criteria for diamond explorationDiamond

Supported by ARC Linkage

Industry Collaborator: De Beers

Summary: Trace-element analyses of garnet and chromite grains from kimberlites distributed across the Kaapvaal craton and the adjacent mobile belts will be used to construct 2D and 3D models of compositional and thermal variation in the lithospheric mantle (to ~250km depth), in several time slices. Regional and high-resolution geophysical datasets (e.g. seismic, magnetotelluric, gravity) will be used to test and refine this model. Links between changes in the compositional structure of the lithospheric mantle and far-field tectonic events will be investigated using 4-D plate reconstructions. The results will identify factors that localise the timing and distribution of diamondiferous kimberlites, leading to new exploration targeting strategies.


Formal projects commencing 2008: 

Basin development in Proterozoic South Australia: developing a time-integrated, compositional framework to assist mineral exploration

Supported by a matching Macquarie University External Collaborative grant
Industry Collaborator: PIRSA (Primary Industries and Resources, South Australia)

This project will generate significant new geochemical and age information to improve the existing geochronological framework for geologically ancient regions of South Australia. These chemical “fingerprints” and age data will be obtained for the mineral zircon (collected from river sands and rocks), that acts as a time capsule allowing us to determine the nature and sources of individual magmatic rocks and also sedimentary sequences. This will provide an integrated understanding of the geological history of the region to aid mineral exploration, and will also add to knowledge of the composition, metallogeny and assembly of this region of the Australian continent.

Global Lithosphere Architecture Mapping II

Summary: Supported by ARC Linkage
Industry Collaborator: BHP Billiton

Summary: Domains of different composition in the deep part of Earth’s rigid outer shell (the lithosphere) reflect processes of continent formation and breakup through Earth’s history. These boundaries focus the fluid flows from the deeper convecting mantle that may produce giant ore deposits. We will integrate mantle petrology, tectonic syntheses, and geophysics to image the 3-D architecture of the continental lithosphere, and provide a basis for realistic dynamic modelling of the behaviour of these deep continental roots and their response to geodynamic forces through time. This will provide a new approach to identifying predictive relationships between different types of lithosphere domains and structures, and large-scale mineralisation. The continents have been broken up and re-assembled along major zones of weakness many times through Earth’s history. Boundaries between such continental domains focus large-scale movements of fluids that can produce giant ore deposits. This study will provide new perspectives on the localisation of world-class economic deposits, the Earth resources on which society depends.

Trace element analysis of diamond: new applications to diamond fingerprinting and genesis

Supported by ARC Linkage
Industry Collaborator: Rio Tinto

Summary: As diamond crystals grow deep in the Earth’s mantle, they trap minute inclusions of the fluids from which they crystallise. We will use recently developed laser-ablation microprobe techniques to analyse the trace-element patterns of diamond crystals from the Argyle, Diavik and Murowa mines (Australia, Canada and Zimbabwe). The results will define the nature and evolution of the parental fluids of the diamonds, and thus shed new light on the processes of diamond formation and the nature of fluids in the deep Earth. The data will be used to test the potential for fingerprinting diamonds by source; such fingerprinting can be used as a tool in controlling the flow of stolen and illegally mined diamonds. The project will provide new insights into the processes by which diamond crystallises in the Earth’s mantle. A better understanding of these processes can lead to improved models and techniques for diamond exploration, enhancing the prospect of finding new deposits in Australia and abroad. The project will test the potential of trace-element microanalysis to fingerprint diamonds by source. If successful, this technology will provide economic benefits by reducing theft and illegal mining, which represent significant losses to legitimate companies. Application of this Australian development could reduce the circulation of “conflict diamonds”, which would have real social benefits worldwide, especially in some developing countries.

Lithosphere evolution across a craton margin, southern Africa

Supported by Industry and a matching Macquarie University Collaborative Grant
Industry Collaborator: De Beers

Summary: The margins of cratonic blocks extend to 150-300 km depth, and exert a strong control on crustal tectonics. Kimberlite magmas intruded across the southern margin of the Kaapvaal Craton (S. Africa) provide detailed sampling of the lithospheric mantle. We will use these samples to map the composition and structure of the mantle in two time slices (120 Ma, 90 Ma), providing new information on how the craton margins channel fluids. Linkages between crustal tectonics and mantle events are being constrained by comparing TerraneChron® analysis of zircons from modern streams, and the kimberlites themselves, with existing Re-Os ages for mantle rocks.

Trace-element Analysis of Diamonds

Supported by Industry and a matching Macquarie University Collaborative Grant

Industry Collaborator: Rio Tinto

Summary: Diamonds contain minute amounts of trapped fluids, representing the medium from which the diamonds grew; these fluids are a unique source of information on processes in Earth’s mantle. New techniques for the trace-element analysis of these fluids, developed recently in GEMOC were further developed, and applied to the analysis of selected populations of diamonds from the Argyle mine (WA). The data will provide new insights into the genesis of diamond, with applications both to exploration models and to test the feasibility of “fingerprinting” of diamonds for exploration and forensic purposes (tracing illegal diamond sources). This project led to the ARC Linkage Grant for 2007.


Global Lithosphere Architecture Mapping

Supported by ARC Linkage
Industry Collaborator: BHP Billiton

Summary: Compositional domains in the subcontinental lithospheric mantle reflect the processes of continental assembly and breakup through Earth’s history. Their boundaries may focus the fluid movements that produce giant ore deposits. Mapping these boundaries in this first-stage project is providing fundamental insights into Earth processes and a basis for the targeting of mineral exploration. We are integrating mantle petrology, tectonic synthesis and geophysical analysis to produce the first maps of the architecture of the continental lithosphere, to depths of ca 250 km (e.g. GEMOC Publication #423). These maps will provide a unique perspective on global dynamics and continental evolution, and on the relationships between lithosphere domains and large-scale mineralisation.

Seismic tomography (Vs) image of Africa at 100-175 km depth: cratons (high-Vs) stand out in “hot” colours while low-Vs East Africa Rift is in blue-black.

Mechanisms of PGE fractionation and concentration in mafic and ultramafic melts

Supported by AMIRA and MERIWA and an international postgraduate scholarship from Macquarie University
Industry Collaborators: BHP Billiton, Independence, LionOre
In collaboration with Dr Marco Fiorentini from UWA with shared PhD student Marek Locmelis

Summary: A long-standing goal of research on nickel-sulfide (NiS) deposits has been the development of reliable lithogeochemical indicators that can act as guides for exploration. In order to better constrain how platinum-group element (PGE) signatures may be utilised as pathfinders for those NiS deposits, this project focuses on the processes that control the fractionation and concentration of PGE in mafic and ultramafic magma types. The study looks into a range of variables controlling the PGE geochemistry, including the role of sulfides (i.e. pentlandite, millerite), oxides (i.e. chromite), silicate phases (i.e. olivine, pyroxene) and platinum-group minerals (i.e. alloys, antimonides, arsenides, tellurides) in the concentration and fractionation of PGE in mineralised and barren sequences. Furthermore, the study investigates the spatial relationship between the PGE signature of mafic and ultramafic rocks and the occurrence of various types of NiS mineralisation, thus optimising the use of the PGEs as vectors towards mineralised environments. See 2007 Research highlights.

[Back to top]