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The Blendevale Carbonate-Hosted Zinc-Lead Deposit, Pillara, Kimberley Region, Western Australia


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Author Murphy GC, Bailey A, Parrington PJ


Serious exploration for carbonate-hosted lead/zinc deposits in the Pillara district commenced in 1971 when Trend Exploration acquired exploration tenements covering stream sediment anomalies in the Limestone Billy Hills area. Shell Minerals managed the project from 1974 to 1976, and BHP Minerals Limited assumed management during 1976. Carbonate-hosted ‘Mississippi-Valley- type’ Pb-Zn deposits most commonly occur in Palaeozoic shallow marine carbonate complexes. At Pillara upper Devonian (Givetian/Frasnian) reef complexes are preserved on the flanks of Precambrian basement ‘highs’. Within platform and atoll facies limestones sphalerite-galena- marcasite-calcite mineralisation occurs as disseminations, veins and breccia matrix, mostly associated with fractures and fault zones. Early exploration concentrated on detailed surface geochemistry and IP geophysical surveys, with geological mapping and shallow target percussion and diamond drilling. Results were discouraging and did not indicate potential for a shallow base metal resource. During 1976-77 BHP adopted a grid diamond drilling exploration technique and commenced testing an area of approximately 50 sq. km, initially using an 800 m square grid. In 1978 high grade mineralisation was intersected in an area subsequently named Blendevale. This was in the seventh diamond drill hole in the 800 m grid drilling programme, and to date more than 400 holes have been cored in the Pillara area. Detailed drilling at Blendevale has defined a number of mineralised breccia zones within an area of 2.4 km x 0.5 km, at depths of 100 m to 600 m below surface. The breccia bodies are associated with a series of north-south trending normal fault zones, forming a graben structure. The mineralisation occurs as breccia matrix surrounding unaltered limestone clasts, as veins filling steep fracture zones, and as