Understanding the cover in the Gawler Craton, South Australia: combining landscape variability, linear structures, and regolith mapping to assist mineral exploration

Ignacio González-Álvarez1,2, Carmen Krapf3, Uli Kelka1, Cericia Martínez1, Thomas, Albretch4, Tania Ibrahimi1, Mark Pawley3, Jonathan Irvine3, Anna Petts3, Jens Klump1

1CSIRO, Mineral Resources, Discovery Program, Perth, Western Australia, Australia; 2University of Western Australia, Centre for Exploration Targeting, Perth, Western Australia, Australia; 3Geological Survey of South Australia, Department for Energy and Mining, Adelaide, Australia; 4Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Successful mineral exploration in Australia has sharply decreased over the past few decades. With >75% of South Australia’s land surface covered by transported regolith material, exploration is a significant challenge. Regolith integrates the expression of geology, climate, groundwater, topography, and geomorphological processes. Landscape domains and their stratigraphy record the 4D architecture of the overburden, and capture the relationship of the surface and cover to the underlying basement geology. To understand regolith composition and distribution, as well as the landscape variability, surface mapping can potentially be a cost-effective and powerful exploration tool. To date, this has involved traditional field-mapping techniques accompanied by remote sensing and geophysical data.

The Archean basement in South Australia has numerous major structures that are expressed at surface as lineaments, landforms and possibly as boundaries between different landscape domains. Several studies on neotectonic features highlighted the potential significance of these structures as geochemical pipelines that connect basement rocks with the surface.

In this study, we integrate regolith mapping, linear surface features, and landscape variability in the central Gawler Craton, South Australia. We aim to enhance the understanding of how basement structures such as faults and shear zones may affect present-day landscapes and surface lineaments. We also explore if the integration of landscape variability, surface lineaments, basement features and regolith domains, can provide sample areas that may efficiently record geochemical footprints from underlying basement rocks.

This project tests the conceptual variability of landscape domains across the study area, and offers insights into possible geochemical dispersion pathways from depth through cover to surface.


Carmen is working for the Geological Survey of South Australia as a Senior Geologist focusing on characterising South Australia’s cover and emerging mineral systems in cooperation with CSIRO utilising machine learning and automated mapping. Carmen is also involved in the National Exploration School Under Cover School (NeXus).

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.