University of Tasmania
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Geology, development, & economics of zeolite mining in Australia

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posted on 2023-05-27, 06:52 authored by Cooper, Steven Alan
Zeolite mining in Australia has been developing at a steady, if slow pace since late 1987, when the first Australian zeolite mine commenced operation at Escott. This inaugural economic deposit, likely to be joined by others, is situated in altered ignimbrite, air fall pyroclastic, and volcaniclastic lacustrine sediments of the Late Carboniferous Currabubula Formation in north-eastern New South Wales. The Early Carboniferous Ducabrook Formation of the Drummond Basin in central Queensland is another zeolite deposit with good economic potential. While generally the regional geology for each deposit is relatively simple and understood, characterisation of the zeolitic mineralisation has been determined by a wide range of geochemical, petrological, physical, SEM, and recently thermal XRD and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods. Studies have confirmed that the prominent zeolite mineral mined at Escott is low thermal stability. Ca-clinoptilolite, and that this zeolite mineral is likely at the other prospects. This Characterisation is important as the natural zeolitic rock produced has physical properties (density, hardness, age, etc.) different from most overseas zeolitic rocks, thereby requiring specific trials to be developed to examine the application of its different properties. Also, different deposits show physical and chemical variations that might play an unknown part in performance for particular markets. The aim of this study is to compile and obtain new information of the characterisation of the Australian natural zeolites, in the manner outlined by Sheppard (1983). Such determination is essential for establishing a rational basis for the commercial use and application research of natural zeolites. No systematic compilation or examination had been made to date on the increasingly large amount of laboratory and exploration material collected over six years. It is hoped that this thesis provides a reference source, both for geological and other disciplines utilising zeolites. A starting point for any new zeolite deposit is the established characterisation methods for natural zeolitic rocks developed by the New South Wales Department of Mineral Resources (Fredrickson, 1986). Sale and marketing information gained in' Australian over its six year history has shown the importance of working with clients, and the development of innovative technology for the utilisation of natural zeolites (Stephen & Gout, 1993). Product development has ranged over packaging, particle sizing and selective high grade mining, with strong encouragement for bilateral communication with potential clients during trialing. Main barriers to expanded growth in some markets are milling and freight costs, which are currently being addressed. Future developments will include chemical and physical modification of the natural zeolite to meet certain client requirements. One threat to market development is the potential health implications of the fibrous zeolite erionite currently mined overseas. The natural zeolite industry in Australia is established, with total invoiced sales to date of over a million dollars, but growth is slow and difficult due to volume related inefficiencies resulting in high costs and slow consumer appreciation of the products. Geological studies have been minimal due to the need for low cost development, but this has changed with the realisation that detailed characterisation is essential. The role of the geologist has thus also changed, from that of active exploration, to technical coordinator for a mineral group with extremely wide product applications.


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Copyright 1993 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.Ec.Geol.)--University of Tasmania, 1994. Includes bibliographical references (p. 49-54)

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