The initial objectives of CRC LEME as stated in the Commonwealth
Agreement were to:
- Provide the mineral industry with world-leading capabilities
leading to breakthroughs in exploration in Australia's extensive
areas of regolith cover.
- Provide essential multi-disciplinary knowledge of Australia's
regolith environments, to deliver this knowledge in readily useable
forms, and ensure that it is transferred into practice in the
minerals exploration industry and environmental management.
- Provide high quality, geoscience-based education for those entering
the minerals exploration industry, land-care and environmental
realms and to provide continuing education for those already involved.
- Inform and guide decision-makers in the Federal and State policy
areas about the relevance and contribution of LEME research to
the economic future of Australia.
Strategic Plan 2002
A comprehensive Strategic Plan was developed after Year 2. This
covers matters like stakeholder needs, research priorities, education,
training, communications and business management.
The Strategic Plan can be viewed here section-by-section, or downloaded
as a PDF (335kb). The Strategic
Plan was reviewed in Year 5.
1. THE IMPORTANCE OF REGOLITH
2. REGOLITH RESEARCH IN AUSTRALIA
3. THE CHALLENGE OF REGOLITH
4. OUR STAKEHOLDERS AND THEIR NEEDS
5. STRATEGIC PRIORITIES
6. RESEARCH PRIORITIES
6.1 Improve our understanding of regolith
processes and landscape evolution
6.2 Make exploration geochemistry work
6.3 Develop techniques to interpret regolith
6.4 Use regolith knowledge to enhance
prospectivity in geological regions
6.5 Develop methods to map and predict
salinity with outcomes linked to mitigation and remediation
7. EDUCATION AND TRAINING
8. PROMOTION AND COMMUNICATION
9. BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT PRIORITIES
11. INDICATORS OF SUCCESS
13. THE FUTURE OF LEME
Our vision is of an environmentally healthy, wealthy Australia,
where regolith geoscience plays a fundamental role in mineral discovery
and land management
Our mission is to create breakthroughs in mineral exploration
and environmental management through generating and applying new
knowledge of the regolith. In so doing we will develop CRC LEME
and its core parties to become global leaders in regolith research
and its application to mineral exploration and natural resources
About this Plan
This document presents the second year update of the initial CRC
LEME Strategic Plan, as prescribed in Schedule 1 of the Commonwealth
It sets out objectives, strategies to meet those objectives, and
indicators to measure performance, all within a framework of four
strategic priorities. Special emphasis is given to research themes.
It focuses on outcomes as well as outputs.
The Operational Plan, which follows from the Strategic Plan, as
prescribed in the Commonwealth Agreement, is a separate document
which will detail schedules, outputs and budgets related to specific
Regolith is the surficial blanket of material including weathered
rock, sediments, soils and biota that forms by the natural processes
of weathering, erosion, transport and deposition. It has complex
architecture, and may vary in thickness from a few centimetres to
hundreds of metres. It hosts or hides valuable mineral deposits,
we live on it, we grow our food in it, it is the foundation of many
major engineering works, and much of our water supplies are stored
in it. It underpins our economic, social and infrastructure systems.
Prolonged deep weathering over the last 50 to 300 million years,
on a predominantly stable continent of great antiquity, has created
a unique Australian regolith. An understanding of regolith architecture
and the processes that act within it, is essential to address the
challenges of sustainable economic development. Regolith science
has important applications in the fields of mineral exploration
and natural resource management. However the uniqueness of the Australian
regolith means research has to be done here, and cannot be borrowed
from anywhere else in the world. To understand our own regolith,
it will be useful to understand regolith in other parts of the world
as a comparison / contrast in different climates and timescales.
In 1995 the Federal Government, through the Cooperative Research
Centre (CRC) program acknowledged the need for research targeted
at mineral exploration. Along with the mining industry, it supported
the CRC for Landscape Evolution and Mineral Exploration –
commonly known as LEME1. That venture capitalised on the earlier
pioneering work of CSIRO and Geoscience Australia and some universities,
a portion of which was funded by the Australian Minerals Industries
Research Association (AMIRA). LEME1 primarily examined the geochemistry
of the regolith in relation to landscape evolution. Memorable achievements
of LEME1 were:
- Development of practical techniques for the identification
and discrimination of geochemical anomalies in regolith material.
- Acceptance of regolith mapping as an important dataset for
- Discovery of ore bodies resulting from regolith knowledge.
- Development of the new discipline of regolith geoscience and
LEME1 research concentrated on regional mapping, regolith descriptions,
empirical geochemistry, and genetic models, in various geological
regions. This resulted in a paradigm shift in the use of regolith
knowledge in mineral exploration. But many problems remain unanswered.
Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration (CRC LEME2) takes
over where LEME1 left off. It is more process-oriented. It will
focus on the third dimension of depth and the fourth dimension of
process changes with time. It will look at mineral and chemical
dispersion systems and geochemical and geophysical mapping methods.
But most importantly, it will include in its new areas of science,
broad-scale environmental issues, where practices in the field of
natural resource management are at an early stage comparable to
where mineral exploration was a decade ago.
More than 70% of Australia is covered with regolith, much of it
being a blanket of geochemically "opaque", physically
continuous transported material, typically less than 25m thick.
Despite inherently high mineral prospectivity, these areas remain
largely under-explored. Regolith geoscience offers a mechanism to
make mineral exploration under cover more effective and efficient.
More reliable, predictive and cost effective methods for reconnaissance
exploration in these terrains will materially help to sustain the
Australian mining industry.
The Australian regolith hosts substantial amounts of natural salt.
In many places, agricultural practices over the last 200 years have
mobilised this salt, leading to serious degradation of agricultural
land, and salination of inland waterways and aquifers. Rising sulfate-bearing
groundwater can also mobilise sulfur and associated metals (such
as Zn, Pb, Au) to produce acid sulphate soils and releases of deleterious
elements into the environment.
Currently there is little understanding of regolith architecture,
and lack of knowledge of salt distribution and mobility pathways
in most of regional and rural Australia. Reliable, predictive, cost
effective methods for mapping and assessing salt stores and movement
channels are essential components to the design of any engineering
or agroforestry-based remedies. The CRC will cooperate with the
many agencies involved in land and water to help solve and remediate.
CRC LEME seeks to deliver customer-oriented outputs leading to
positive outcomes in both mineral exploration and natural resource
management. To achieve customer-oriented outcomes in applied research
we must also provide new insights into the fundamentals of regolith
Consultation with clients, colleagues and other interested parties,
both individually and through the LEME Advisory Councils, identifies
the following groups of stakeholders, and their needs:
- Mineral explorers, who require enhanced, predictive methods
to generate meaningful exploration targets within and under regolith
- Politicians and community decision makers who need independent
sound scientific advice to develop policy on all matters of land
use and resource management.
- Rural industries including rural industry R & D Corporations
who require information for their strategic planning.
- Commonwealth, State and Territory mineral resource agencies
(particularly our core parties Geoscience Australia, Dept of Primary
Industries NSW and Primary Industries and Resources SA) who require
regolith information in the pre-competitive geoscientific datasets
to enhance the mineral prospectivity in their jurisdictions.
- Commonwealth State and Territory natural resource management
agencies that require understanding of the dynamics of regolith
systems in a three-dimensional (depth) framework to underpin intervention
strategies for dryland salinity mitigation, water quality controls,
and acid sulphate soil problems.
- Catchment management authorities, local governments, engineering
groups, community-based Landcare groups and individual farmers
who require practical input to mitigation schemes at all scales.
- Students and researchers of earth and environmental sciences
who require support for continuing research into regolith processes.
In effect there are two separate groups of stakeholders - mineral
explorers and land and water managers, each with their own specific
requirements. However it is the science of regolith, with its multiple
applications to the challenges faced by both groups that will bind
together these two seemingly separate streams of applied research.
In its overall business, LEME will pursue four strategic priorities:
- Research Priorities
- Education and Training
- Management and Business development
These priorities will lay the foundation for growth in the total
knowledge base of regolith science, and encourage its increasing
application to sustainable development and environmental management
in Australia, during and beyond the life of LEME.
It can be expected over the life of LEME that there will be a
shift in strategic direction from the predominantly minerals focus
of LEME1, to potentially an equal balance with natural resource
management. The exact weighting of that balance will be judged by
consultation with stakeholders, and will also take into account
the emerging opportunities for delivering scientific breakthroughs,
and the availability of external funding. In practical terms the
balance will be managed by the formal processes of project review,
project termination, and new project adoption.
The core of LEME business will be to undertake and deliver multi-disciplinary,
leading-edge research in regolith science that can be applied to
mineral exploration, and land management solutions. Research will
be conducted along a number of themes, each of which has its own
separate objectives, often with different stakeholders, but all
interrelated by regolith geoscience. Research themes to meet this
core priority are described below.
6.1 Improve our understanding
of regolith processes and landscape evolution
There is a need to improve our fundamental knowledge in order
to drive the further application of regolith geoscience in mineral
exploration and natural resource management. We will integrate,
at a range of scales, the distribution of regolith with the factors
that influence landscape development by undertaking 3D mapping of
residual and transported regolith, characterising its mineralogy,
petrography, chemistry, and physical and hydrological properties.
Where transported regolith stores salt or covers mineral-prospective
basement, we will model the landscape evolution by determining the
provenance, diagenesis and weathering history of the sediments.
To introduce the fourth dimension we will determine absolute ages
for regolith materials by innovative methods which, together with
quantitative modelling of landscape evolution, will improve our
knowledge of the rates of change of regolith and landscape processes.
We will investigate the role of biota in the formation of regolith,
and relate this to chemical mobility and fluid dynamics. We will
also determine what minerals host geochemical anomalies using modern
micro-analytical techniques. Ultimately we will construct well-constrained
4D regolith models in key regions for direct application to mineral
exploration and natural resource management.
The Centre will largely fund much of this work.
6.2 Make exploration geochemistry
work through cover
This is the supreme challenge of mineral exploration. Near-surface
geochemical sampling detects only some shallowly buried ore bodies.
Unless we know what mechanisms that drive trace-levels of metals
through cover, the technique remains empirical, not predictive.
Studies at selected sites will elucidate the regolith-forming processes,
and the palaeo-climatic environments under which these processes
operated. Once the mechanisms are understood, we will predict where
near-surface geochemical techniques can be applied, and deliver
techniques for ranking geochemical anomalies for exploratory drilling.
For subtle anomalies, we will identify the host regolithic minerals
and assess dilution (for example by windblown materials), in order
to develop methods of enhancing geochemical signals. We will then
optimise sampling, sample preparation and analytical methods. An
understanding of how anomalies relate to the 4D regolith framework
will allow geochemistry to be used predictively. It will discriminate
the null case (not tested) from the negative case (nothing there).
We will also undertake bottom-up studies at known sites of basement
mineralisation, in order to study the nature of hydrothermal alteration
zones in the regolith, and how it can be distinguished from weathering
We will seek industry support for this work.
6.3 Develop techniques
to interpret regolith architecture
We will use satellite (hyperspectral), airborne and ground geophysical
systems (magnetic, gravity, electromagnetic, electrokinetic, ground
penetrating radar), and innovative borehole logging techniques,
to look within as well as through the regolith. This will be done
in key areas of interest to stakeholders, preferably where good
geospatial data sets already exist. We will develop effective and
rapid 3D mapping techniques by the acquisition and interpretation
of new, high resolution geophysical data, especially in areas of
previous drilling. New generation 3D regolith models can then be
established, enabling a better understanding of interaction between
groundwater and regolith architecture. New methods will be developed
to reduce the need for drilling when determining regolith stratigraphy.
The application of this technology to regolith based ore deposits
will be promoted. Furthermore, the relationship of regolith and
groundwater will be integrated with natural resource management
Some industry funding will be sought for this work.
6.4 Use regolith knowledge
to enhance prospectivity in geological regions
Integrated regional studies in covered areas are required to enhance
mineral prospectivity of geological regions, and to help stimulate
exploration. Findings of local scale studies will be extrapolated
regionally. This will be achieved by detailed and regional scale
studies that characterise the regolith, image its 3D distribution,
date key regolith-forming events, place element mobility (metals
and salts) into 4D models, and interpret geophysical and geochemical
surveys in the context of these models. The regional focus will
be on known mineral fields with further exploration potential.
This work will be funded directly by the Core Parties, augmented
by industry funds.
6.5 Develop methods to
map and predict salinity with outcomes linked to mitigation and
The factors that make it difficult for mineral explorers to use
geophysical methods in regolith, such as high electrical conductivity
caused by saline groundwater, can be used to map salinity. This
research theme will provide salt location maps; new models of landscape
evolution and sediment deposition as three dimensional frameworks
for salt stores and conduits; and interpretations of all spatial
data sets including geophysics. This will enable extrapolation from
sites to regions; and provide data at a scale suitable for targeted
salinity intervention strategies. There is a requirement for a regional
focus on the Murray Darling Basin, but not to the exclusion of other
agricultural regions and rangelands.
The essential outcomes of National Action Plans on salinity are
catchment management programs that command the confidence of stakeholders,
substantially improve river and groundwater quality, and provide
guidance for land use re-design. Using our multi-disciplinary regolith
knowledge LEME will play a key role by providing outputs such as
- 3D salinity occurrence maps for catchment planning,
- management options for engineering interventions,
- regional assessment of groundwater and surface water resources,
- landscape re-design and targeting of revegetation options,
- monitoring networks to measure the success of the various plans.
This new work by LEME will be done in collaboration with many
relevant agencies, and in most instances funded through the various
State National Action Plans for Salinity and Water Quality. It will
therefore require a complementary salinity strategic plan.
Education and training are vital to create the necessary pool
of expertise in order to sustain strategic goals in the longer term.
Our objective is to be recognised as an Australia-wide, world-class
provider of quality graduates and researchers to satisfy the growing
demand for specialist regolith geoscientists and environmental scientists
Strategies to achieve this include:
- Provide funds, scientific supervision and institutional support
for graduates, by granting, on a competitive basis, scholarships
in regolith geoscience at the BSc(Hons) and PhD levels. Our quantitative
measure is to provide at least 60 new PhD graduates, and 60 Honours
graduates over the life of LEME
- Provide workshops, seminars and training courses on regolith
geoscience and related disciplines, directed at industry, government
and institutional professionals.
- In cooperation with industry and other agencies, contribute
regolith content to undergraduate training courses.
LEME aims to promote and communicate regolith knowledge so that
it is recognised and funded by all stakeholders and decision makers
as having an important part to play in all land-use and land-management
issues. Actions to achieve this will include:
- Use the internet, specifically the LEME website, as a resource
for all parties to transfer knowledge, and to release interim
findings to all interested parties, including LEME researchers.
- Release technical reports, scientific communications and products
through the LEME open file and other standard publication outlets,
in accordance with the milestones and commitments as set out in
- Compile plain-English position papers on matters of community
and political interest, and present to decision makers.
- Seek opportunities to sponsor multi-disciplinary scientific
and technical conferences.
The Centre will fund these activities.
The Governing Board and the Executive Committee will manage the
business of LEME adopting best practices in accordance with the
letter and spirit of the Commonwealth Agreement and the Centre Agreement,
under which LEME operates.
The following strategies will ensure this, as well as creating
a culture of achievement for the organisation:
- Instil an awareness of safety in the office and field environment,
so as to achieve a Lost Time Frequency Rate of zero.
- Manage the Centre's resources according to best financial practices.
- Prioritise the work program to ensure the timely delivery of
products and knowledge of practical value to stakeholders.
- By a generative process and review at the Executive level,
and in consultation with stakeholders and Advisory Councils, develop
and manage a portfolio of research projects that accords with
- Provide benefits to the core participants as near as practically
possible in accordance with equity, bearing in mind that different
projects taken up by different participants will have different
demands on LEME resources.
- Grow and diversify the revenue base so that external revenues
from contract research increase over the life of LEME from $300,000
in year 1 to $1,100,000 in year 7. This will be achieved by promoting
to stakeholders the practical of benefits of the application of
- Ignite the creativity of LEME staff and students by encouraging
and supporting a vital element of pure research.
- Facilitate and encourage collaboration in research with other
CRCs and other scientific or engineering agencies with related
LEME will aim to develop and deliver multi-disciplinary and multi-party
research that focuses on addressing stakeholder needs, consistent
with the collaborative spirit of a cooperative research centre.
In planning and executing its research, governance and educational
priorities, LEME will act as a cohesive entity in the best interests
of the joint venture, whilst still recognising the needs for equitable
returns for individual parties in the joint venture.
Key indicators for the measurement of success in meeting the objectives
of the Strategic Plan are listed below. Some are numerical targets.
Others are qualitative, but are assessable by such measures as feedback
from stakeholders and take-up of knowledge.
- A Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (an industry standard measure)
of zero throughout the life of the CRC.
- Public acknowledgement that regolith-based techniques contributed
significantly to mineral discovery. This is measured by way of
- Public acknowledgement that regolith knowledge contributes
to remediation of dryland salinity problems. This can be measured
by instances of uptake of LEME developed techniques by agencies
involved in catchment management.
- External revenues from contract research increase over the
life of LEME by 267%.
- Significant increase in mineral exploration expenditure in
areas of Australia where LEME has conducted regolith research.
- Establishment of business enterprises of international capability,
in regolith mapping, salinity assessment, and mitigation advice.
- CRC LEME and its core participants are preferred providers
of regolith skills and expertise within Australia.
- Scientists trained by LEME are sought for employment in the
Australian and overseas minerals and land management sectors:
the benchmark is more than 70% of LEME students working in regolith-related
jobs within one year of graduation.
- Production of at least 60 new PhD graduates and 60 Honours
students throughout the life of LEME.
- Our scientists are invited to present their work at national
and international conferences, and to deliver keynote papers.
- Scientific outputs (refereed papers and book chapters, monographs,
conference publications, technical reports, short course notes,
maps) that total an average of three outputs per full-time-equivalent
employee per year.
- Incorporation of regolith science as a significant component
of all undergraduate geoscience and environmental science courses
in Australian universities.
CRC LEME will have an average in excess of 100 full-time-employee
equivalents. These employees will have specialist skills in research
and teaching, regolith geology, mineral deposit geology, geomorphology,
geochemistry, geophysics, hydrogeology, hydrology, sedimentology,
isotope geochemistry, geochronology, microbiology, geo-botany, bio-geochemistry,
computation, GIS, soil science and many more.
Over the life of CRC LEME it will have access to resources in
excess of AUD$135 million. This is made up of $94M in in-kind support,
$20M from the Federal Government CRC Program, and $21M in additional
cash contributions. Of this, some $11M is estimated to come from
external sources. These external sources include State Government
bodies dealing with money from the National Action Plan for Salinity,
and the minerals industry through one-on-one and multi-client research
LEME runs from July 2001 to June 2008. In addition to developing
and extending its core competencies, LEME needs to develop strategic
alliances with stakeholders and other agencies to ensure the application
of regolith knowledge in a post-LEME era. Three future business
models are possible:
- extend and permeate the capability of regolith science into
all relevant agencies and companies, for them to progress and
apply regolith knowledge, or:
- preserve business units capable of providing regolith content
to land management requirements on a commercial basis, nationally
and world wide.
- continue cooperative research arrangements between Core Parties
and users without Commonwealth funding.
These are not necessarily mutually exclusive models. LEME will
lay the foundations so that informed judgements can be made on how
best to develop and manage a wind-up strategy, by the end of Year