The tectonics and mineral systems of Proterozoic Western Australia: Relationships with supercontinents and global secular change
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The cratonisation of Western Australia during the Proterozoic overlapped with several key events in the evolution of Earth. These include global oxidation events and glaciations, as well as the assembly, accretionary growth, and breakup of the supercontinents Columbia and Rodinia, culminating in the assembly of Gondwana. Globally, Proterozoic mineral systems evolved in response to the coupled evolution of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and lithosphere. Consequently, mineral deposits form preferentially in certain times, but they also require a favourable tectonic setting. For Western Australia a distinct plate-margin mineralisation trend is associated with Columbia, whereas an intraplate mineralisation trend is associated with Rodinia and Gondwana, each with associated deposit types. We compare the current Proterozoic record of ore deposits in Western Australia to the estimated likelihood of ore-deposit formation. Overall likelihood is estimated with a simple matrix-based approach that considers two components: The "global secular likelihood" and the "tectonic setting likelihood". This comparative study shows that at least for the studied ore-deposit types, deposits within Western Australia developed at times, and in tectonic settings compatible with global databases. Nevertheless, several deposit types are either absent or poorly-represented relative to the overall likelihood models. Insufficient exploration may partly explain this, but a genuine lack of deposits is also suggested for some deposit types. This may relate either to systemic inadequacies that inhibited ore-deposit formation, or to poor preservation. The systematic understanding on the record of Western Australia helps to understand mineralisation processes within Western Australia and its past connections in Columbia, Rodinia and Gondwana and aids to identify regions of high exploration potential.
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