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Sampling the supergiant Olympic Dam iron-oxide Cu-U-Au-Ag deposit, South Australia


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Author K J Ehrig and F F Pitard


The Olympic Dam iron-oxide copper-gold (IOCG) uranium-silver deposit is second in size only to Norilsk, the gigantic metalliferous deposit. Olympic Dam is the largest publicly declared uranium, fifth largest copper and third largest gold resource. The deposit is typified by texturally destructive brecciation and intense iron metasomatism of the Roxby Downs Granite, bedded clastic facies rocks and mafic-ultramafic dykes. The deposit contains over 100 minerals. Copper mineralisation consists of chalcopyrite, bornite and chalcocite. Uraninite, coffinite and brannerite are the dominant uranium-bearing minerals. Gold mineralisation consists of electrum, tellurides and Au-Cu alloys. Hessite is the major silver-bearing mineral. The economic minerals are disseminated throughout the breccia matrix where the average grain sizes of the Cu-sulfide, uranium, gold and silver minerals are ~50, 20, <5, <5 microns, respectively. A significant number of sampling theory-based test programs have been completed since the mid-1990s to establish sampling nomographs, select appropriate sampling (ie split versus chip and interval lengths) and sample preparation protocols, quantify the errors associated with each subsampling stage, determine the practical uncertainty limits of Olympic Dam matrix-matched standards, and identify improvement opportunities related to the ongoing assaying quality assurance / quality control (QA/QC) program. Invaluable knowledge and unexpected insights gained from sampling studies at Olympic Dam have helped to improve our understanding of the distribution of economic and deleterious elements within the Olympic Dam deposit. CITATION:

Ehrig, K J and Pitard, F F, 2017. Underground bulk
sampling, uniform conditioning and conditional simulation – unrealistic
expectations?, in Proceedings Eighth World Conference on Sampling and
, pp 21–28 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).