‘The thing that attracted me to the Earth sciences is there’s just so much unknown out there still. People think Australia is well mapped and well understood but that’s just not true at all. There are so many hills no one’s walked up, so many rocks no one’s picked up and said “what the f#@% is this doing here?”’. There is this amazing idea that nothing is random, it’s not random that Black Mountain is here, or that it’s made of sandstone. That’s because of the geological setting and that goes across the entire world. I like the idea that by looking at clues in the chemistry and the physics you can unravel exactly why things are today the way they are.’
Ross’ study has led to the discovery of a new style of rare Earth mineralisation which he is currently investigating as part of his PhD at the RSES in partnership with a small prospecting company. Rare earth metals play an important role in the production of lots of common technology such as computers and phones, and are in extremely high demand. Up until now almost all rare earth metals have been extracted from a carbonatite setting which forms from a certain type of carbon-based magma.
In the process of doing his honours he discovered high concentrations of rare Earths in a new setting; young intraplate felsic volcanoes. His PhD research at the ANU has allowed him to pursue this further by applying knowledge of this site to other locations around Australia to investigate whether they would also be economically viable sites for rare Earth metal extraction.
‘I’ve worked in the mining and exploration industry for a while and I’m really interested in the academic side of things too. Something that hasn’t been done very well in the past is bridging that gap between academia and industry, and that’s something I’m interested in doing. I’m hoping to remain in the academic side of things while maintaining and producing more strong ties with industry.’
Ross talks to 7 News about his QLD mineral discovery and research HERE