Newsletter for the Rotary Club of Western Endeavour - Issue No.: 938 Issue Date: 22 Nov, 2020

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Dr Peter Downes (Centre) with President Harry (Right) and President Elect Peter (Left)

New WA Museum Mineral and Meteorite Collection by Dr Peter Downes

Dr Peter Downes, Curator of Minerals and Meteorites at the new WA Museum, now named Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip in recognition of the aboriginal first nation's people, spoke to us about the new exciting exhibition at the museum of Minerals and Meteorites of Western Australia. The exhibition has real minerals and meteorites on display as well as some hands on activities. 

The spectacular new Western Australian Museum will open in the Perth Cultural Centre on Saturday 21 November 2020!!

Western Australia, and in particular the Kalgoorlie/Coolgardie area, became known to the world with the discovery of massive amounts of alluvial gold followed by gold at depth in quartz veins in 1892. This was the start of the now massive mining industry in Western Australia where nearly every element in the periodic table is found in minerals here.   

Peter has worked extensively in characterising the mineralogy of mineral deposits in Western Australia, including the diamond-bearing alkaline volcanic rocks – kimberlites and lamproites – and the rare earth element-rich carbonatites. His other research is in the geochemistry and paragenesis of secondary minerals in the oxidised zones of Western Australian mineral deposits.

As part of his work Peter is responsible for the world class collection of iron meteorites which have come extensively from the Nullabor area (about 200 of them) where they are much easier to find. 

Spinifex-textured komatiite at Ghost Rocks near Menzies WA

Large iron meteorite from the Nullabor weighing about 12 tonnes

Peter is also involved with the Desert Fireball Network that discovered the Dingle Dell meteorite (ordinary condrite meteor)  that crashed to earth on the 31 October 2016 near Morawa. The meteorite was found approximately a week later and was in pristine condition without any weathering which provides valuable information about the dawn of life. 

Jack Hills in the Mid West of WA has very ancient zircon's that were created soon after the earth was formed. It is believed these are possibly the oldest minerals on earth.  

Peter also spoke about a sample of olivine in spinifex-textured  #komatiite (specimen 20cm long), at Ghost Rocks near Menzies, WA. These spectacular crystals of olivine (now replaced by serpentine-group minerals) grew from a komatiite lava (over 2.5 billion years old) as it cooled from temperatures of ~1200–1600˚C. Komatiites host nickel sulphide mineral deposits such as those around Kambalda, WA.

The WA Museum has a massive collection of 30,000 rocks and 14,000 meteorites, but only a small number can be on display.

Peter certainly whetted our appetite to visit the exhibition when it opens next week. 

Author: Laurie Glossop

Published: 14 November, 2020

 


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Marcus Harris
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