Towards a Regolith Mineralogy Map of the Australian Continent - A Feasibility Study in the Darling-Curnamona-Delamerian Region
Authors / CoAuthors
de Caritat, P.
Bulk quantitative mineralogy of regolith is a useful indicator of lithological precursor (protolith), degree of weathering, and soil properties affecting various potential landuse decisions. To date, no national-scale maps of regolith mineralogy are available in Australia. Catchment outlet sediments collected over 80% of the continent as part of the National Geochemical Survey of Australia (NGSA) afford a unique opportunity to rapidly and cost-effectively determine regolith mineralogy using the archived sample material. This report releases mineralogical data and metadata obtained as part of a feasibility study in a selected pilot area for such a national regolith mineralogy database and atlas.
The area chosen for this study is within the Darling-Curnamona-Delamerian (DCD) region of southeastern Australia. The DCD region was selected as a ‘deep-dive’ data acquisition and analysis by the Exploration for the Future (2020-2024) federal government initiative managed at Geoscience Australia.
One hundred NGSA sites from the DCD region were prepared for X-Ray Diffraction (XRD) analysis, which consisted of qualitative mineral identification of the bulk samples (i.e., ‘major’ minerals), qualitative clay mineral identification of the <2 µm grain-size fraction, and quantitative analysis of both ‘major’ and clay minerals of the bulk sample. The identified mineral phases were quartz, plagioclase, K-feldspar, calcite, dolomite, gypsum, halite, hematite, goethite, rutile, zeolite, amphibole, talc, kaolinite, illite (including muscovite and biotite), palygorskite (including interstratified illite-smectite and vermiculite), smectite (including interstratified illite-smectite), vermiculite, and chlorite. Poorly diffracting material (PDM) was also quantified and reported as ‘amorphous’. Mineral identification relied on the EVA® software, whilst quantification was performed using Siroquant®. Resulting mineral abundances are reported with a Chi-squared goodness-of-fit between the actual diffractogram and a modelled diffractogram for each sample, as well as an estimated standard error (esd) measurement of uncertainty for each mineral phase quantified. Sensitivity down to 0.1 wt% (weight percent) was achieved, with any mineral detection below that threshold reported as ‘trace’.
Although detailed interpretation of the mineralogical data is outside the remit of the present data release, preliminary observations of mineral abundance patterns suggest a strong link to geology, including proximity to fresh bedrock, weathering during sediment transport, and robust relationships between mineralogy and geochemistry. The mineralogical data generated by this study are presented in Appendix A of this report and are downloadable as a .csv file. Mineral abundance or presence/absence maps are shown in Appendices B and C to document regional mineralogical patterns.