Maximizing drilling information in greenfields exploration: Linking the fabric and geochemical footprint of the basement to the surface in South Australia

Ignacio González-Álvarez, Carmen Krapf, David Fox, Tania Ibrahimi, Clive Foss, Rian Dutch, Liz Jagodzinski, Monica LeGras, Tenten Pinchand, Ryan Noble, Nathan Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Detection of mineral system footprints in regions under thick cover is challenging. The difficulties are enhanced in regions with low-relief landscapes that are deeply weathered. This research examines how information from a single drill hole in an underexplored region can deliver a significant amount of information to assist in greenfields exploration. This study describes the geochemical dispersion processes through >500 m of cover based on observations from drill hole CDP008, and explores the possibility of recognising landscape features that link basement features with the surface. Our study revealed that: (1) the lower fluvial sandstone package contains a geochemical footprint of the underlying basement rocks, produced by vertical and lateral geochemical dispersion; whereas (2) the overlying sediments do not record any footprint of the basement rocks; and (3) the top limestone units are a chemical barrier for vertical geochemical dispersion due to their lack of permeability. Basement features identified from magnetic data are mimicked by linear surface landscape features that lie above them, which may potentially be associated with vertical geochemical dispersion processes, linking the basement with the surface. Hence from the point of view of mineral exploration, surface geochemical sampling should target these particular neotectonic/reactivation-associated features of the landscape. We suggest that in areas of deep cover, neotectonics/reactivation surface landscape features have the highest prospectivity to detect deep basement geochemical signatures at surface. The findings from this study may therefore impact approaches to mineral exploration under cover in similar landscape contexts around the world, such as regions in West Africa, India, China and Brazil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107005
JournalJournal of Geochemical Exploration
StatePublished - Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to express our special thanks to the Mirning People, and the members of the Far West Coast Aboriginal Corporation, who are the traditional owners of the land, and who granted us access to the ground for this study. We thank Derek Winchester for preparing the thin sections. We are especially thankful to Tim Prokopiuk and Mark Pawley for their comments and critical insights in previous versions of this work. CSIRO and the Geological Survey of South Australia provided funding for this project. Geoscience Australia contributed additional funding to the Coompana Drilling Program through their Exploring for the Future initiative. We are especially thankful to Caroline Tiddy and Richard Lilly for their thorough, insightful and incisive reviews that have significantly improved this manuscript. Stefano Albanese is thanked for his editorial assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Geochemical dispersion
  • Greenfields exploration
  • Landscape evolution
  • Neotectonics
  • Nullarbor
  • Sedimentary geochemistry


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