Assessment reveals mineral potential of salt lakes


Scientists standing in a shallow lake gathering samples.

Scientists gather samples from
Lake Tyrrell in Victoria for
Geoscience Australia's salt lake
project. L-R Evgeniy Bastrakov,
Subhash Jaireth, Patrice DeCaritat,
Pauline English, Janice Trafford (front).

A newly released study of mineral systems in Australia's vast salt lakes indicates significant potential for valuable mineral deposits.

Carried out as part of Geoscience Australia's Mineral Systems of Australia project, A Review of Australian Salt Lakes and Assessment of their Potential for Strategic Resources is the first of its type in Australia.

The assessment identifies seven regions which contain salt lakes with the potential for economic recovery of lithium, boron, potash and other commodities. They include the Lake Woods and central western regions of the Northern Territory, the northeast area of the Yilgarn Craton as well as the Paterson and the South Musgrave regions in Western Australia, and the Lake Frome, Lake Eyre and central Gawler region in South Australia.

Globally, salt lakes, or salars, are major sources of potash, lithium, borates and other strategic mineral commodities with salt lakes in the semi-arid to arid regions of Chile, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia having most of the world's low-cost supply of lithium, while salt lakes in Jordan, Israel and China are significant sources of potash.

Investment analyst, Goldman Sachs, has identified potash as the commodity for the next decade as the pressure increases to achieve greater yields from the world's nutrient-deficient soils.

The Chief of Geoscience Australia's Minerals and Natural Hazards Division, Dr Andy Barnicoat said that potash is of particular strategic importance because of its essential application for Australia's agricultural industries.

"Maps developed as part of the assessment detail which salt lakes have the highest potential for potash as well as boron, and calcrete-hosted uranium and the strategically important commodity, lithium," Dr Barnicoat said.

"Australia has produced potash historically at Lake Chandler and exploration is underway at Lake Disappointment and Lake Mackay in Western Australia and in the Karinga Creek region in the Northern Territory.

"This study has identified new greenfields areas which are favourable for the production of these commodities and provides valuable pre-competitive information for potential investment and further exploration for commodities which, in some cases, have received little attention to date," Dr Barnicoat said.

Free downloads are available for A Review of Australian Salt Lakes and Assessment of their Potential for Strategic Resources and associated maps depicting systems prospective for Potash deposits, Calcrete-Hosted Uranium deposits, Boron deposits and Lithium deposits.