• Image: Walter Lim, flickr.Image: Walter Lim, flickr.

ANU and the University of Bristol collaborate on volcano discovery

Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Bristol (UK) have recently release a paper detailing a discovery as to how copper ore forms around volcanoes.

The findings contradict previous knowledge about the formation of copper, and could lead to changes in the way that exploration for the element is undertaken.  Much like many natural resources, there are limited reserves of copper in the world, but it has become crucial for electricity transmission.

Lead researcher, Dr John Mavrogenes, from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, said the research examined what causes the large copper deposits known as porphyries that form around volcanoes. “We found that these copper deposits need rocks containing both copper and sulphur,” he said.

"If you look at the volcanic rocks that typically surround these deposits, they are quite rich in copper but very low in sulphur."

"But the much hotter rocks below them have a lot of sulphur. That sulphur is percolating up and kneading these rocks and causing the porphyries to form."

This research could lead to improvements in the way that mining companies search for new copper deposits. A 400 million year old volcanic arc in Australia is thought to contain a number of copper porphyries that could be extracted.   It is thought that the research findings could also help to develop a better understanding of when volcanoes might erupt.

Studying earth science, geology or geography in Australia or New Zealand offers a uniquely different experience – Australia currently has one of the largest mining economies in the world thanks to it’s vast natural mineral reserves, while New Zealand is situated across a plate boundary and has an active geothermal landscape – plenty to study and keep you curious!  Contact Study Options if you would like to receive a list of courses available in this area.

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