How the taste of groundwater could help focus exploration efforts

Researcher Nathan Reid carrying out the groundwater experiment. (Image courtesy of CSIRO).

Haloes of altered water chemistry in groundwater could help geologists identify areas where ore deposits lie hidden below the surface.

A new report published by the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia states that by sampling groundwaters, prospectors can make their exploration instruments ‘taste’ the geology they have come into contact with and determine what kind of minerals are buried in a specific area.

Chemical anomalies identified in groundwater from sediment-covered areas in the Capricorn region have already stimulated further private exploration investment

The report is based on research carried out by scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation CSIRO, the Centre for Exploration Targeting and Curtin University in the Capricorn region of Western Australia.

In the area of study, layers of sediment and weathering are believed to hide potential ore deposits from view. Thus, the experts sampled certain places around known deposits of gold, uranium, and other minerals and noticed that the interaction with the ore systems had left distinctive traces in the water.

“Groundwater penetrates through covering sediments and interacts directly with the bedrock, dissolving trace amounts of the minerals present into solution,” Nathan Reid, one of the researchers at CSIRO, said in a media statement. “Where the underlying rocks contain a valuable ore deposit, the chemical flavour of that mineralisation extends much further than the concentrated mineralisation itself – just like a teaspoon of salt can make a whole glass of water taste salty.” 

In the scientist’s view, by using this technique, exploration companies would be able to focus their efforts on the right areas.