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Mineral systems

It has long been known that many major types of mineral deposit contain high amounts of organic matter, but the sources of this organic matter and its possible role in the formation of mineral deposits has historically been under-explored. There are two potential mechanisms by which organic matter could contribute to the formation of a mineral deposit; in the transportation of metal ions to the site of the deposit (e.g. the formation of soluble metal-organic complexes), and in the deposition of metals to form a deposit (through redox reactions).

The CSIRO Organic Geochemistry of Mineral Systems Cluster was launched at Curtin University in 2012, as part of the CSIRO Minerals Down Under National Research Flagship. This research Cluster was led by Prof. Kliti Grice, and included researchers and PhD students from Curtin University (WA-OIGC, Geology), University of Western Australia, Australian National University and Melbourne University, along with researchers from CSIRO and collaborators from Australian and international institutions. The Cluster research program ran from 2012 to 2015, though work continued beyond this date supported by additional funding sources.

Highlights of the research program include:

  • Development of novel technologies and analytical techniques including the analysis of mineral-occluded organic matter (Bitumen II), hydropyrolysis of highly thermally mature organic matter, and the establishment of the world’s second facility for the compound-specific sulfur isotope analysis of organic sulfur compounds
  • The characterisation of organic-derived carbonaceous material in gold deposits using spectroscopic and pyrolysis techniques, which identified trends in molecular and stable isotopic composition which may potentially be used to locate highly mineralised zones
  • Evidence for the activity of sulfate-reducing bacteria in the massive lead-zinc sulfide deposits of the McArthur Basin (NT, Australia), which produced the sulfide leading to the precipitation of minerals in the basin and the formation of the deposits
  • Investigation of the effects of radiolytic alteration on organic matter in uranium deposits, identifying potential organic signals of uranium mineralisation
  • The development of thermodynamic models to identify controls on metal solubility, transport and deposition in organic-bearing metal systems


Crede, L.S., Evans, K.A., Rempel, K.U., Grice, K., Sugiyama, I., 2019. Gold partitioning between 1-dodecanethiol and brine at elevated temperatures: Implications of Au transport in hydrocarbons for oil-brine ore systems. Chemical Geology 504, 28-37.

Greenwood, P.F., Shan, C., Holman, A.I., Grice, K., 2018. The composition and radiolysis impact on aromatic hydrocarbons in sedimentary organic matter from the Mulga Rock (Australia) uranium deposit. Organic Geochemistry 123, 103-112.

Hu, S.-Y., Evans, K., Rempel, K., Guagliardo, P., Kilburn, M., Craw, D., Grice, K., Dick, J., 2018. Sequestration of Zn into mixed pyrite-zinc sulfide framboids: A key to Zn cycling in the ocean? Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 241, 95-107.

Pagès, A., Barnes, S., Schmid, S., Coveney, R.M., Schwark, L., Liu, W., Grice, K., Fan, H., Wen, H., 2018. Geochemical investigation of the lower Cambrian mineralised black shales of South China and the late Devonian Nick deposit, Canada. Ore Geology Reviews 94, 396-413.

Hu, S.-Y., Evans, K., Craw, D., Rempel, K., Grice, K., 2017. Resolving the role of carbonaceous material in gold precipitation in metasediment-hosted orogenic gold deposits. Geology 45, 167-170.

Mirasol-Robert, A., Grotheer, H., Bourdet, J., Suvorova, A., Grice, K., McCuaig, T.C., Greenwood, P.F., 2017. Evidence and origin of different types of sedimentary organic matter from a Paleoproterozoic orogenic Au deposit. Precambrian Research 299, 319-338.

Cumberland, S.A., Douglas, G., Grice, K., Moreau, J.W., 2016. Uranium mobility in organic matter-rich sediments: A review of geological and geochemical processes. Earth-Science Reviews 159, 160-185.

Hu, S.-Y., Evans, K., Fisher, L., Rempel, K., Craw, D., Evans, N.J., Cumberland, S., Robert, A., Grice, K., 2016. Associations between sulfides, carbonaceous material, gold and other trace elements in polyframboids: Implications for the source of orogenic gold deposits, Otago Schist, New Zealand. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 180, 197-213.

Robert, A.M., Grotheer, H., Greenwood, P.F., McCuaig, T.C., Bourdet, J., Grice, K., 2016. The hydropyrolysis (HyPy) release of hydrocarbon products from a high maturity kerogen associated with an orogenic Au deposit and their relationship to the mineral matrix. Chemical Geology 425, 127-144.

Greenwood, P.F., Amrani, A., Sessions, A., Raven, M.R., Holman, A.I., Dror, G., Grice, K., McCulloch, M.T., Adkins, J.F., 2015. Development and initial biogeochemical applications of compound specific sulfur isotope analysis. In: K. Grice (Ed.), Principles and Practice of Analytical Techniques in Geosciences, pp. 285-312. Royal Society of Chemistry, Oxford.

Grotheer, H., Robert, A.M., Greenwood, P.F., Grice, K., 2015. Stability and hydrogenation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons during hydropyrolysis (HyPy) – Relevance for high maturity organic matter. Organic Geochemistry 86, 45-54.

Hu, S., Evans, K., Craw, D., Rempel, K., Bourdet, J., Dick, J., Grice, K., 2015. Raman characterization of carbonaceous material in the Macraes orogenic gold deposit and metasedimentary host rocks, New Zealand. Ore Geology Reviews 70, 80-95.

Jaraula, C.M.B., Schwark, L., Moreau, X., Pickel, W., Bagas, L., Grice, K., 2015. Radiolytic alteration of biopolymers in the Mulga Rock (Australia) uranium deposit. Applied Geochemistry 52, 97-108.

Dick, J.M., Evans, K.A., Holman, A.I., Leach, D., Grice, K., 2014. Combined sulfur, carbon and redox budget constraints on genetic models for the Here’s Your Chance Pb–Zn deposit, Australia. GeoResJ 3–4, 19-26.

Holman, A.I., Greenwood, P.F., Brocks, J.J., Grice, K., 2014. Effects of sulfide minerals on aromatic maturity parameters: Laboratory investigation using micro-scale sealed vessel pyrolysis. Organic Geochemistry 76, 270-277.

Holman, A.I., Grice, K., Greenwood, P.F., Böttcher, M.E., Walshe, J.L., Evans, K.A., 2014. New aspects of sulfur biogeochemistry during ore deposition from δ34S of elemental sulfur and organic sulfur from the Here’s Your Chance Pb/Zn/Ag deposit. Chemical Geology 387, 126-132.

Holman, A.I., Grice, K., Jaraula, C.M.B., Schimmelmann, A., 2014. Bitumen II from the Paleoproterozoic Here’s Your Chance Pb/Zn/Ag deposit: Implications for the analysis of depositional environment and thermal maturity of hydrothermally-altered sediments. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 139, 98-109.

Dick, J.M., Evans, K.A., Holman, A.I., Jaraula, C.M.B., Grice, K., 2013. Estimation and application of the thermodynamic properties of aqueous phenanthrene and isomers of methylphenanthrene at high temperature. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 122, 247-266.

Greenwood, P.F., Brocks, J.J., Grice, K., Schwark, L., Jaraula, C.M.B., Dick, J.M., Evans, K.A., 2013. Organic geochemistry and mineralogy. I. Characterisation of organic matter associated with metal deposits. Ore Geology Reviews 50, 1-27.

Holman, A.I., Grice, K., Jaraula, C.M.B., Schimmelmann, A., Brocks, J.J., 2012. Efficiency of extraction of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from the Paleoproterozoic Here’s Your Chance Pb/Zn/Ag ore deposit and implications for a study of Bitumen II. Organic Geochemistry 52, 81-87.

Williford, K.H., Grice, K., Logan, G.A., Chen, J., Huston, D., 2011. The molecular and isotopic effects of hydrothermal alteration of organic matter in the Paleoproterozoic McArthur River Pb/Zn/Ag ore deposit. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 301, 382-392.

Nabbefeld, B., Grice, K., Schimmelmann, A., Summons, R.E., Troitzsch, U., Twitchett, R.J., 2010. A comparison of thermal maturity parameters between freely extracted hydrocarbons (Bitumen I) and a second extract (Bitumen II) from within the kerogen matrix of Permian and Triassic sedimentary rocks. Organic Geochemistry 41, 78-87.