Development of a genetic model for targeting gold mineralisation in the Scottish Dalradian

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Geology


This project is a unique and timely opportunity to work with a gold mining company, Scotgold Resources, to define the fundamental controls that form and locate gold mineralisation in the Scottish Dalradian. Following acquisition of the Cononish deposit by Scotgold in 2007, and further exploration and research by them, a gold mine is scheduled to come on-stream in 2010. This will be Britain's only metalliferous mine and Scotland's first gold mine. Despite decades of previous intensive study of the Scottish Highlands, Scotgold's research has identified shortcomings in current understanding of the geology of this area and of the mineralisation itself (perhaps not so surprising given the challenging terrain and climate). Scotgold have located numerous new gold showings in the area and believe that other deposits similar to Cononish may also exist, but that successful exploration for other deposits requires the development of a new genetic model for the mineralisation. We propose that the best way to develop this model is a via a PhD project that involves a talented geology graduate, with expert supervision. The student will have access to all existing information and materials from the district, plus new data from the area and on the Cononish deposit itself; the latter from the very first day that it will be mined - a rare and career-making opportunity for a PhD student. This approach is enthusiastically supported by the Project Partners who are providing extensive training and financial support for the studentship. The project will give the student direct experience of the methods used in the modern mineral exploration industry. Key Objectives To develop the genetic model we will: (1) Assess the linkage between the mineralisation and igneous events by precise dating of both. (2) Examine the geometry and fluid flow paths within the mineralising system by detailed core logging, mapping, petrography and GIS analysis followed by fluid inclusion microthermometry and stable isotope measurements. (3) Examine new gold occurrences across the Scottish Highlands and integrate data from these and Cononish with existing data. The student will receive training in underground mapping, drill core logging, field mapping of mineralisation, petrography (transmitted and reflected light, SEM, cathodeluminescence and electron microprobe), GIS analysis of a variety of datasets (air photographs, structural data, lithogeochemistry, stream sediment and assay data) fluid inclusion microthermometry, dating by Ar-Ar and U-Pb methods, stable isotope (O, H, S) measurements and interpretation. The student will spend 4 months per year working with Scotgold based in Tyndrum, in addition to formal meetings with Scotgold supervisors. The Project Partner will oversee a programme of Continuing Professional Development for the student. Benefits to the UK economy This work will lead to continued responsible development of gold in Tyndrum and the SW Highlands which sustainably supports the local economy. At current metal prices the Cononish deposit alone has a value of over $150 m and will have a significant positive economic impact. The mine is predicted to directly employ 60 people and create twice times that number of indirect employment opportunities locally. There is also the opportunity for creation of jewellery fabrication using local gold, which commands a premium price. The National Park (the mineral planning authority) are encouraging the development to help diversify the local economy. The training will benefit the UK economy by producing a highly-employable PhD graduate who is likely to work with a UK-registered or LSE-listed mining or exploration company (see track record of supervisors in this respect), exploring not only for gold but also for many other mineral commodities required for low-carbon economies. Results of this project will be applicable to exploration for other late-orogenic gold deposits across the world.


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