Henry David Thoreau was a transcendentalist, philosopher, naturalist and author but he wasn’t a geologist. However, when he wrote “it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see”, he provided us with a surprisingly accurate one-line summary of the ‘Mineral Systems’ approach to finding the critical minerals and elements we need.
In 2018, Campbell McCuaig (now Head of Geoscience Excellence at the BHP Resource Centre of Excellence in Perth, Western Australia) and his team, published a paper with the Society of Economic Geologists entitled ‘The Power of a Systems Approach to Mineral and Petroleum Exploration in Sedimentary Basins’.
In it, McCuaig et. al. defined this approach as a comprehensive and systematic method used in the exploration for both minerals and hydrocarbons to understand and evaluate the potential for deposits within a given area.
The identification of an earth system that includes source, migration, reservoir, seal and structure has been familiar and important to hydrocarbon explorers for over fifty years. And it is this ‘play-based’ approach that can be extended to mineral exploration if the support team has a sufficient understanding of the required genetics for critical minerals and natural hydrogen systems.
Your genetic make-up determines the type of person you are – your behavioural and psychological characteristics are determined by the combination of genes that formed you; the millions of years of historic information that you inherited.
Similarly, the as-complicated combination of source materials and geological processes that went into forming accumulations of natural geologic resources can be categorised by their genetic profiles.
So, if we can recognise the factors that contributed to the formation of economically viable mineral deposits then, with a combination of a deep understanding of the sub-surface and access to a comprehensive global data source, we can look for similar profiles and locations around the world.
In this coming blog series we will explore each of the components that must be understood for the minerals systems approach to be effective and how, by using this approach, we are able to locate the critical minerals that will be needed to deliver the energy transition.