A 3D lithospheric electrical resistivity model of the Gawler Craton, Southern Australia

Rachel Maier*, G. Heinson, S. Thiel, K. Selway, R. Gill, M. Scroggs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


A three-dimensional lithospheric electrical resistivity model of the Archaean-Proterozoic Gawler Craton in southern Australia has been developed, to define the tectonic framework of the craton and identify craton margins under regolith cover. Knowledge of cratonic margins is important as upwards of 60% of known mineral wealth is located in palaeoconvergent zones between ancient cratons. The research was conducted in three phases. First, all previous magnetotelluric (MT) and geomagnetic depth sounding (GDS) data were compiled to establish a regional scale induction database. Almost 400 observation sites were found in the literature and from personal communication, collected over the last 30 years by various research groups. Of these, most measurements were GDS only, but recent 2D MT sites along major profiles provide further depth constraints. Second, eight long period MT sites were collected from central areas of the craton to provide a window into the deeper lithosphere and asthenosphere. Data were collected over a number of weeks to establish high quality MT responses in the bandwidth 10-104 s. One-dimensional modelling indicated that the lithosphere was resistive (>100 Ω m), with a more conductive midmantle at 70 km and a decrease in resistivity at the transition zone. These MIT responses agree with the long period (104-107 s) continental lithosphere induction responses of Olsen (N. Olsen: 'Long-period (30 days-1 year) electromagnetic sounding and the electrical conductivity of the lower mantle beneath Europe', Geophys. J. Int., 1999, 138, 179-187). Finally, a 3D resistivity model of the lithosphere was compiled from 2D inversions of MT profiles, with constraints from lithosphere asthenosphere soundings, and regional scale GDS data. The Gawler Craton is shown to have a resistive core of dimension 500 km, surrounded by more conductive terrains. The core is largely, but not exclusively, Archaean crust, surrounded by conductive Proterozoic crust. The edge of the core on the eastern side of the Gawler Craton correlates with the location of several iron oxide-copper-gold deposits, including the world class Olympic Dam deposit, potentially making mapping of large scale resistivity structures a useful tool for regional scale exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-21
Number of pages9
JournalTransactions of the Institutions of Mining and Metallurgy, Section B: Applied Earth Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Archaean
  • Asthenosphere
  • Gawler Craton
  • Lithosphere
  • Proterozoic


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