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Geodynamics through time: Geodynamic, lithospheric and crustal-scale controls on multi-stage basin evolution and orogenesis and links to mineralising processes

Paterson Basins, Australia

The Paterson Basins project is a new 4 year study being led by Winthrop Professor Mark Jessell and Research Assistant Professor Weronika Gorczyk. This project will use an integrated basin studies approach combining interpretation of multiple regional data sets (e.g. new seismic reflection, drill core, gravity, magnetics) with numerical modelling to investigate multi-scale (lithospheric and crustal) and multi-stage deformation processes. These will provide insight into the link between basement and basin evolution, and subsequent mineralisation processes. The ‘natural laboratory’ used for this study is primarily the Paterson Orogen, in central Western Australia.

This study will help to understand how complex basement structures control basin formation & evolution, and will enable us to:

  • Predict which faults reactivate for a given stress field, combining current stress information and past history of activation. Understand whether different basement structures reactivated in extension and compression?
  • Determine what the key basin signatures for reactivation of major vs minor basement structures in complex settings?
  • Predict the time evolution of faults.
Basins and orogens host base metals and gold deposits, thus their study is necessary to inform mineral exploration programs. Better understanding of lithosphere-scale forces driving the development of basins and orogens, and the subsequent development of structures formed during both inversion will be achieved using an integrated geological interpretation approach coupled with numerical modelling. Both large- and small-scale basin models will examine the processes of rifting. Research results from the Paterson Orogen will be compared to 4D geological data (from the region) to provide a validation of model results, and place constraints on multi-stage structural histories of basins in general that can be extended to other regions.

This study will aid minerals exploration in Western Australia by providing generic understanding when predicting basin evolution from knowledge of the basement by:
  • Providing methodologies for determining the relative timing of activity of fluid flow pathways. 
  • Advances in understanding of where, how and why basins form, reactivate and control host fluids transport. 
  • Aiding in targeting exploration based on the controlling structures at depth rather than their shallower spin-offs.
  • Providing workshops - a platform for government, industry and academic geoscientists to collaborate to try to solve the what, where and how of basin geodynamics, inversion and mineralising processes.
This project also aims to reduce the risk for minerals explorers in basin and orogenic settings in Western Australia, by producing an integrated workflow that produces a 4D model for development of the Paterson Orogen, and importantly test this against possible geodynamic models for the region by using well-established numerical modelling techniques. Importantly, this work should result in focused, informed exploration programs that should cause a smaller environmental footprint in the region. In addition the benefit of increased availability of geoscientific interpretations/products has been measured for the WA state governments exploration incentive scheme where these geoscientific focused campaigns has resulted in a $23 return to the state economy on each dollar of government expenditure.