Simulating geological and mineralising processes in sedimentary basins

This project used Magnus to simulate geological processes involved in the formation of mineral deposits, focusing on deposits found in sedimentary basins such as the lead-zinc and uranium deposits in the Northern Territory

Principal investigator

Heather Sheldon
Magnifying glass

Area of science

Geology, Geosciences

Systems used

Magnus and Visualisation

Applications used

MOOSE, Paraview
Partner Institution: CSIRO| Project Code: pawsey0127

The Challenge

Finding mineral deposits is an expensive business, especially in Australia where the exposed deposits have been found and undiscovered deposits are likely to be hidden under 100’s of metres of sediments and rock. To reduce the cost of exploration it is important to use relatively low-cost techniques to narrow the search space

The Solution

Understanding how known mineral deposits were formed can help us to predict where further deposits may be found, thus narrowing the search space for mineral exploration. Using a variety of data collected in the field, geologists develop conceptual models or hypotheses about the formation of known mineral deposits. Computer simulations can be used to test these hypotheses

The Outcome

We used the open-source code MOOSE to simulate processes involved in the formation of lead-zinc and uranium deposits in the Northern Territory. These simulations require a supercomputer, such as Magnus, in order to run in a reasonable timeframe and to explore the relevant parameter space. Using Magnus we were able to compare a range of scenarios, leading to improved understanding of these mineral systems which in turn will assist explorers in finding undiscovered deposits elsewhere in the region

List of Publications

Schaubs, P., Sheldon, H.A., Blaikie, T., Kunzmann,M.,Schmid,S. and Spinks, S. 2019. Basin-scale fluid-flow models of the McArthur River mineral system: constraints from geochemistry, geophysics and sequence stratigraphy
Australia Society of Exploration Geophysics (ASEG) Meeting Extended Abstracts 2019, 1-5

Sheldon, H.A., Schaubs, P.M., Blaikie, T.N., Kunzmann, M., Schmid, S. and Spinks, S. 2019. An Integrated Study of the McArthur River Mineral System: From Geochemistry, Geophysics and Sequence Stratigraphy to Basin-Scale Models of Fluid Flow. In Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar (AGES) Proceedings, 81–86. Northern Territory Geological Survey.

Sheldon, H.A. and Schaubs, P.M. 2019. CSIRO-NTGS McArthur Basin Project: Chapter 6: 3D Modelling of Fluid Flow in the McArthur River Zn-Pb-Ag Mineral System. CSIRO report.

Spinks, S., Pearce, M., Ryan, C., Moorhead, G., Sheldon, H.A., Kunzmann, M., Blaikie, T.N., Schaubs, P.M. and Rickard, W.D.A. 2019. Ultra-High Resolution Trace Element Mapping Provides New Clues on the Origin of the McArthur River (HYC) Sediment-Hosted Zn-Pb Deposit. In Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar (AGES) Proceedings. Northern Territory Geological Survey.

Spinks, S., Pearce, M., Liu, W., Kunzmann, M., Ryan, C., Moorhead, G., Kirkham, R., Blaikie, T.N., Sheldon, H.A., Schaubs, P.M. and Rickard, W.D.A. 2019 (in review). Carbonate Replacement as the Principle Ore Formation Mechanism in the Proterozoic Supergiant HYC (McArthur River) Sediment-Hosted Zn-Pb Deposit, Australia. Economic Geology.

Figure 1. • McArthurModel.png: Example of simulation results for the McArthur River lead-zinc deposit. The results show the development of 3D thermal convection in faults and an aquifer, due to their high-permeability. The McArthur River deposit may have formed due to thermal convection bringing hot, metal-bearing fluid to the seafloor, as shown in this model. (A) Model geometry. Top of model represents the seafloor. (B) 100 C iso-surface coloured by geological units. (C) Fluid flow vectors in faults and aquifer. (D) Temperature in faults and aquifer. (E) Horizontal fluid flux in faults and aquifer. Cone points towards North
Figure 2. Unconformity.png Example of simulation results for unconformity-related uranium deposits (4 out of 720 scenarios tested). The image shows how varying fault dip can change the direction of fluid flow within the faults. This can potentially influence the depth at which mineral deposits are formed