Research in Mineralogy and Petrology

This department's main research themes are:

  • investigating secondary mineral assemblages found in weathered sulphide ore deposits;
  • documenting new mineral species;
  • determining the distribution and origin of Victorian gem minerals, in particular diamonds, sapphires and zircons;
  • describing unusual mineral assemblages in volcanic and contact metamorphic rocks; and
  • characterising new Victorian meteorites.

In most cases the research is based on specimens either within the existing collections or obtained during fieldwork. The outcomes have enabled Museum Victoria to establish an international reputation for the quality of its mineralogical research.

Secondary Minerals

Fluctuating climate in south-eastern Australia has assisted in the formation of a great diversity of secondary minerals associated with weathering of sulphide ore deposits. The most famous occurrence is the Broken Hill silverleadzinc ore deposit in western New South Wales, where 300 mineral species have been recorded.

Another significant secondary mineral assemblage occurs in the Lake Boga Granite in northern Victoria. Researchers at the museum have found minerals new to science in both these deposits, showing that it’s possible to make exciting discoveries in our region.

Gem minerals

Victoria has not traditionally been seen as a source of gem minerals (or gemstones) in economic quantities. However, the State’s great geological diversity means there are many small deposits of interesting gemstones, including sapphires, rubies, turquoise, coloured quartz, topaz and even enigmatic diamonds. Investigating how and when these minerals formed provides Museum researchers with some challenging and interesting problems.

Meteorites

Victoria has so far yielded 14 meteorites, including some of the most unusual types ever found. Museum researchers have described five new meteorites, named after their discovery sites, Bealiba, Turriff, Rainbow, Pigick and Willow Grove.

Rainbow belongs to a rare class of carbonaceous chondrites, CO3, while Willow Grove, found in Gippsland, is a nickel-rich ataxite with a unique structure. Both Rainbow and Willow Grove have generated great interest amongst international meteorite experts.


Last updated 1 May 2008