Economic Geology Research Centre Research Projects & Services

Research Projects & Services

The quality of EGRU research is internationally recognised and the Centre benefits from the skills of a team of committed and talented researchers. Much of the research is carried out in collaboration with industry, and this collaboration fosters the rapid and effective application of the latest research to the exploration and development of mineral resources.

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EGRU is seeking collaboration with our industry partners and colleagues as a means of providing suitable research projects for students at Honours level. Projects are now being sought for 2024 and onward. If you are interested in collaborating with EGRU and JCU, please contact the EGRU Director,

EGRU has a long history of delivering high quality geochronological services for research projects and minerals industry. We use the U-Pb dating method to obtain highly accurate and precise in-situ ages by using a laser ablation system (Teledyne Photon MachinesTM Analyte G2 Laser) connected to an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (Thermo ScientificTM  iCAPTM  RQ-ICP-MS). Before analyses, samples can be imaged and inspected for zoning, evidence of dissolution-reprecipitation or other factors that can affect the interpretation of the age data by cathodoluminescence (CL) and back scatter electrons (BSE) using the field emission-scanning electron microscope (Hitachi SU5000 FE-SEM). Depending on the sample and individual situation we can obtain U-Pb ages by analysing minerals directly from a thin section, from a polished puck or from mineral separates mounted on polished pucks. Our Mineral Separation Lab is capable of separating almost any mineral phase by using a combination of gravity separation with a Wilfley table, heavy liquids and magnetic methods.


The U-Pb system in zircon is very stable over a wide range of temperature and alteration conditions therefore it is the mineral of choice for obtaining highly precise emplacement ages for volcanic and plutonic rocks, for provenance analyses and maximum depositional ages for sedimentary rocks. Less commonly it is used for dating metamorphic and alteration events. However, in certain cases through careful petrographic analysis zircon grains can be identified to have formed during a metamorphic or hydrothermal event and in these conditions, it is a suitable candidate for dating metamorphic and alteration events.


Monazite is suitable for a wide range of geochronological applications including emplacement ages for igneous rocks, provenance analyses and maximum depositional ages, dating metamorphism and hydrothermal events. However, monazite is less stable than zircon during geological processes and the U-Pb system in monazite is less robust therefore before dating monazite grains we recommend a thorough petrographic analysis to identify as precisely as possible the conditions under which monazite grains formed.


Same considerations as those for monazite apply to the U-Pb dating of titanite grains. However, titanite presents an advantage because it can form in mafic rocks as a primary mineral therefore if the U-Pb system was not disturbed by metamorphic or hydrothermal events it can be used to date the emplacement of mafic igneous rocks.


Same considerations as those for monazite apply to the U-Pb dating of allanite grains. Allanite is common in many hydrothermal systems and can be used to date alteration. Because it can react with hydrothermal fluids and can undergo dissolution-reprecipitation we recommend a through petrographic investigation before dating.


Same considerations as those for monazite apply to the U-Pb dating of apatite grains. Like titanite, apatite can form as a primary mineral in mafic magmas and therefore can be used to obtain emplacement ages for magmas where zircon is absent. However, thermal, metamorphic, and hydrothermal events can disturb the U-Pb system in apatite and ages have to be interpreted carefully and in conjunction with a thorough petrographic analysis.


Andradite and grossular garnet commonly contain ppm levels of U and Pb and are suitable for U-Pb dating. Care must be taken with the interpretation of ages because the U-Pb system can be disturbed by metamorphic and hydrothermal events. However, because garnets can be very large often the U-Pb system is reset in only parts of the grains and a multistage age history can be reconstructed.


Cassiterite can be used to directly date the timing of tin mineralization and because cassiterite grins are robust during erosion and weathering can be used for provenance analyses and to obtain maximum depositional ages for sediments. We recommend that the cassiterite ages be accompanied by a detailed petrographic analysis and have to be interpret within the geological context.


Rutile can be used to date a variety of geological process including the emplacement age of igneous rocks, metamorphic events, detrital studies to assess maximum depositional ages and provenance of sediments, alteration, and mineralization events. The U-Pb system in rutile can be reset by metamorphism, fluids and thermal events and we recommend a detailed petrographic and geological context analyses for the most robust interpretation of the age dates.


U-Pb dating of wolframite is a newly developed method and the factors that affect the behaviour of the U-Pb system in wolframite are not well understood therefore the age results have to be interpreted in context and through rigorous petrographic analysis.

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A comprehensive service from sample preparation to reporting.

Our services include, but are not limited to:

  • High Quality CL Imaging
  • Major and Trace Elements Analyses
  • Mineral Separation and Characterization
  • In-situ U-Pb Dating (Zircon, Titanite, Monazite, Rutile, Apatite…)
  • Other Isotope Analyses, Such as Lu-Hf, Sm-Nd, Rb-Sr

Fast and reliable services are possible with access to  multi-million dollar facilities, including the Mineral Separation Laboratory and the Advanced Analytical Centre, which are significant and unique elements of JCU’s research infrastructure. Our services are also been backed by the researchers within the Department of Geosciences, including Economic Geology Research Centre.

In addition to Struers branded Axitom-5 cut-off machine, Accutom-50 high precision saw, CitoVac mounting equipment, RotoPol-35 and TegraPol-21 polishers, the Mineral Separation Laboratory also houses Rocklabs and Retsch crushing and milling equipment, Holman 800 Wilfley table, Frantz magnetic separator, and Heavy Liquid separation systems.

Our Advanced Analytical Centre is equipped with a Class 350 Clean Laboratory, JOEL JXA8200 Electron Probe Microanalyser, HITACHI SU5000 Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (+ panchromatic CL & Oxford EDS detectors), Raman Microspectrometry WITec Alpha 300, Teledyne Cetac Analyte G2 193 nm laser ablation system, Thermo iCAP-RQ and iCAP-TQ ICP-MS, and Finnegan Neptune Multicollector ICP-MS etc.

For further Information:

Direct Contact:

Geochemical, Isotopic and Geochronological Database

The objective of this project was to compile a geochemical, isotopic and geochronological database from JCU theses submitted over the last 30 years where the specific region of research was within QLD. The thesis data is defined into data groups of whole rock, rock chip, drill holes, auger, beach sediment, channel sample, drainage sediment, electron microprobe, heavy mineral, mineral, soil stream sediments, termite mound, vegetation, and water sample.  Each data group contains references to the thesis author, region and sample number. Other references include, but are not limited to, drill hole depth, data type, mine or prospect, current tenure, QDEX report number, lithology, geochemistry.

Characterising and Assessing Propectivity of Intrusion-Related Hydrothermal Systems of North-East Queensland

A 4-year collaborative research project (2014-2017) between JCU and DNRME (GSQ) to investigate the hydrothermal systems of north-east Queensland.

The JCU Reports on this project are now available for download from QDEX.

Productivity Reports and other data will be available in the future.

Project Researchers JCU:

  • Assoc. Prof. Zhaoshan Chang
  • Prof. Paul Dirks
  • Em. Prof. Bob Henderson
  • Assoc. Prof. Carl Spandler
  • Dr Jan Marten Huizenga
  • Dr Yanbo Cheng
  • Dr Arianne Ford
  • Dr Isaac Corral
  • Dr Gavin Clarke

As part of the project the following post-graduate theses were produced:

  • Poblete, J, PhD, 2019. Geological Characteristics and Origin of Watershed W Deposit, North Queensland, Australia.
  • Sahlström, F, PhD, 2018. Mt Carlton High-sulfidation epithermal deposit, Queensland Australia: Geological Character genesis and implications for exploration.
  • Behnsen, H, MSc, 2018. Magma Fertility Related to Au-Cu Mineralisation in North Queensland, Australia - Evaluating the Potential for Linked Porphyry Cu±Au (±Mo) Deposits at Depths.
  • Fenwick-Ross, O, B.Geol, Hons, 2016. Geological Characteristics and Genesis of the Mt Glenroy Gold Prospect.
  • Spence, J, B.Geol, Hons, 2017. Geological Characteristics of the Nightflower Polymetallic Deposit, Chillagoe Region, Queensland, Australia.