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Watch the Adelaide Branch – July Tech Talk: Geology and Tectonics of Australian Rare Earth Element Deposit

Gain insights on understanding the geology of Australia's rare earth element ore deposits and an appreciation for the geological controls on ore formation.

Guest speaker Dr Carl Spandler, Associate Professor in Earth Sciences at the University of Adelaide, presented his talk titled “Geology and Tectonics of Australian Rare Earth Element deposits” at the AusIMM Adelaide Branch July Technical Event.

Prior to Carl’s talk we will hear a short presentation from Ben Forrest, honours student studying geophysics at the University of Adelaide, titled ‘Tracking waste in a sub-level cave operation using geochemistry’.


Tech Talk Overview

Australia is host to a diverse range of rare earth element (REE) ore deposits, and therefore is well placed to be a major supplier of REE into the future. This talk presents a review of the geology and tectonic setting of Australia’s hard-rock REE resources. The deposits can be classified into four groups: 1. Carbonatite associated; 2. Peralkaline volcanic associated; 3. Unconformity related, and; 4. Skarns and iron-oxide-copper-gold (IOCG) related. The majority of these deposit groups are directly or indirect related to continental alkaline magmatism, with hydrothermal transport and concentration of REE being important in some cases.

The vast majority of Australia’s REE deposits formed in the Mesoproterozoic in intra-continental settings in association with crustal-scale fault zones or structures that acted as transport conduits for ore-forming magmas or fluids. In general, Australia’s inventory of REE deposits is similar to global record. Globally, the Mesoproterozoic appears to be a particularly productive time period for forming REE orebodies, due to favourable conditions for generating ore-fertile magmas, and favorable preservation potential due to a general lack of aggressive continental recycling (i.e., active plate tectonics).


Dr Carl Spandler was recently appointed to the University of Adelaide under the top talent initiative. He uses petrology and geochemistry to research the evolution of the Earth’s crust and mantle, and the formation of metalliferous ore deposits. His areas of expertise include microanalysis of trace elements and isotopes in minerals within their context in rock formations. His current research focuses on understanding how and where ore deposits of critical metals, such as the rare earth elements, are formed in the Australian continent.


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