Profile: Dr Melanie Finch works with mining companies to better understand ore deposits

April 27, 2023

“Research we are doing today could impact the discovery of critical mineral deposits within the next five to 10 years.”

The big picture

Dr Melanie Finch hopes to accelerate Australia’s green energy transition.

As a child, Finch was fascinated by the macroscopic questions of geoscience: “how mountains were made, what made volcanoes erupt”.

Her PhD at Monash University focussed on shear zones: “‘conveyor belts’ that can stack rocks kilometres thick”. As crystals shift and deform, water seeps through, dissolving then depositing critical minerals. Shear zones, Finch says, are “water superhighways and can move quantities of fluid  a couple of hundred times the volume of Sydney Harbour”. 

But the process is poorly understood; and Australia’s substantial critical mineral deposits have hitherto been uncovered largely by chance.

“If we can figure out how these critical mineral deposits form in shear zones, we can find more of them, making the switch to green energy technology quicker and cheaper,” says Finch.

At James Cook University, she’s part of the Economic Geology Research Unit, working closely with mining companies to better understand ore deposits and aid companies in their current exploration efforts. “Research we are doing today could impact the discovery of critical mineral deposits within the next five to 10 years.”

Finch says we have the technology to produce enough green energy for the domestic and export markets.

“The next step is to build the infrastructure. This investment will have to come from industry, but it can be incentivised by the government.

“Now is the time for visionary leadership. The pay-off will be huge for Australian jobs, the economy and for our planet.”

 — Alison Ratcliffe

[PATH]

  • Bachelor of Science, Monash University
  • Human factors scientist, DSTO
  • PhD, Monash University
  • Lecturer, JCU, President, Women in Earth and Environmental Sciences

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