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Four dimensional evolution of the Paleoproterozoic West African Craton and its implications for the prospectivity of Ni-Cu-PGE mineral systems

West Africa Craton, West Africa

This project aims to understand the four dimensional evolution of the lithospheric architecture of the Birimian Terrane of West Africa. The specific goal is to unravel the spatial and genetic link between lithospheric architecture and distribution of magmatic mineral systems. 

The current level of knowledge over the Birimian Terrane of the West African Craton, which extends over large portions of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Guinea, is very limited. Previous work has been limited mostly by a fragmented political and geographic landscape, and significant volatility throughout the region. Furthermore, previous researchers have not taken full advantage of new technological advances and the latest dating and geochemical techniques.

The project will generate high-precision data using the latest technological advances and spatial analysis tools to integrate all the data into a model. Subsequently, the model can provide a better understanding of the four dimensional evolution of the Paleoproterozoic (2.3-1.8 Ga) Birimian Terrane of the West African Craton. Specifically, the study will characterise a wide range of magmatic suites, which occur in an area stretching across the above-mentioned West African countries. Recent advances in laboratory methods and more precise equipment, have made it possible to obtain more reliable chemical and isotopic datasets, including the characterisation of stable and radiogenic isotopic signatures. Through the combination of the geochronological and geochemical data sets obtained from magmatic suites and their integration using spatial data analysis tools, such as ArcGIS, it will be possible to generate a four dimensional model of the architectonic and tectonic evolution of the West African Craton. This project will obtain a better understanding of the evolution, architecture and preservation of continents and their links to mineral deposits between 2.7 and 1.8 billion years ago (a period in Earth history that is endowed with mineral deposits and reflects a very important transition in the evolution of our planet and its biosphere-hydrosphere-atmosphere). By producing and integrating new high quality geophysical and geochemical data and making a major contribution to training students and researchers, the project aims to develop a superior model to help understanding Earth’s evolution and target areas of high prospectivity for important mineral deposits, including nickel. Significantly, this study will draw from the data generated within the framework of the ongoing ARC Linkage project LP0776780, which looks into the tectonostratigraphic controls on the localisation of Archaean komatiite-hosted nickel-sulfide deposits and camps in the Yilgarn Craton of Western Australia. The results will not only be applicable to exploration in Australia, but will also define the potential of West Africa to host large nickel sulphide mineral systems.