Program 1. Discovery


Critical minerals in space and time. 

Australia is well endowed with critical minerals such as rare earth elements (REEs), lithium, cobalt and copper. And the potential for new discoveries is very high, particularly in the underexplored areas of central Australia. But our understanding of how to explore for them lags behind other minerals. This is largely because the increase in society’s demand for critical minerals is a relatively recent phenomenon, but also because at least some critical minerals occur at lower concentrations hosted within other orebody types and are not as readily recognised.  

The key focus of our Discovery Program is to develop new exploration tools and methods to enhance future ore deposit discoveries.

The Australian Critical Mineral Research Centre is world-renowned for expertise in novel isotope geochemistry, mineral geochemistry and geophysics, which we are using to develop new exploration tools. 

  • Research questions

    • How do critical mineral orebodies form, and how should we explore for them?
    • How can we can maximise the discovery of new deposits?
    • How can we minimise the costs and timeframes of discovery?
  • Research goals

    • Improve geological knowledge of critical mineral ore systems, including the definition of orebodies
    • Understand the geological conditions for metal transport and deposition in the Earth’s crust
    • Understand the crustal architecture in which critical mineral orebodies are formed
    • Construct holistic geologic/tectonic models for the Australian continent, with a focus on tectonic/geologic environments or time periods in Earth history most conducive to ore formation.
  • Centre expertise

    • Mineralogy and mineral chemistry
    • Geological controls on deposit formation
    • Economic geology
    • Continental geology
    • Basin architecture
    • Tectonics
    • Igneous and metamorphic petrology
    • Mineralisation processes
    • Exploration methods (geophysics)
    • Novel geochemical and geophysical techniques for mineralisation targeting
    • Geochronology
    • Geochemistry
  • Example projects

    Rare earth minerals

    Australia's rare earth potential

    This ARC-funded project ‘Realising Australia’s rare earth resource potential’ (2020-2023) is revealing the potential for undiscovered economic deposits of rare earth elements. The team uses an array of traditional and innovative geological research methods, and expect to achieve a greater understanding of how, where and when rare earth element orebodies form in the Earth's crust. 

    Partners: Australian National University, University of Queensland, Geoscience Australia, Geological Surveys (QLD, WA and NSW), Northern Minerals Ltd, South32, NorthX Ltd.


    Rare earths in QLD

    Target areas for rare earths in Queensland

    The Queensland Government is funding the ‘New Economy Minerals Initiative Research Project: Rare earth element ore potential of central and north QLD’ (2020-2023) to enable explorers to more effectively identify target areas of prospectivity. The project is further developing a modern model for rare earth mineralisation in  the Georgina Basin and Mount Isa Inlier of Western QLD, and Tertiary volcanic rocks of central QLD. 

    Partner: Geological Survey of Queensland.

  • Key contact

    Carl Spandler

    Director Australian Critical Mineral Research Centre

    Contact Carl