Assessment of massive sulphide base metal targets using lead isotopes in soils

Brian L. Gulson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


An assessment is made of the use of lead isotopes in soils as an exploration tool for concealed lead-rich base metal massive sulphide deposits, using four case histories in southeast Australia as examples. Case history 1 covers soil profiles (< 1 m depth) unrelated to mineralization in which the lead isotope ratios exhibit variation with depth and are different from those for massive sulphide deposits. Case history 2 covers six shallow (< 0.4 m depth) profiles from two traverses over the concealed Elura Zn-Pb-Ag deposit in central western New South Wales. For one traverse over completely concealed (blind) sulphides, no isotopic or geochemical signature of the orebody could be detected. In two profiles from the other traverse, for depths of 0.15 m and 0.3-0.45 m, the lead isotopic ratios in the soils are identical with those in the ore (the target isotope ratios). Case history 3 covers two occurrences of Silurian volcanogenic Cu-Zn-Pb mineralization at the Benambra prospect in northeast Victoria. The isotopic ratios for the soils are identical with those in the sulphides and the isotopic signature of the sulphides is also detectable in traverses where no obvious surface anomaly is developed. Case history 4 is an undrilled anomaly in Silurian shales and felsic volcanics where the isotope ratios in B horizon soils are consistent with those of the target isotopic signature. The information from these case histories suggests that the lead isotopic analysis of soils will be a useful exploration tool for concealed mineralization, although at the present stage of research it appears that its application may be limited to shallowly buried (< 100 m) targets or deeply buried targets with an extensive oxidation profile. Its main advantage over conventional geochemical techniques is its ability to discriminate between similar geochemical anomalies arising from different styles of mineralization, as illustrated by an example from Benambra.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-313
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Geochemical Exploration
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 1984
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessment of massive sulphide base metal targets using lead isotopes in soils'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this