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Mapping geology and volcanic-hosted massive sulfide alteration in the Hellyer–Mt Charter region, Tasmania, using Random ForestsTM and Self-Organising Maps


Cracknell, MJ and Reading, AM and McNeill, AW, Mapping geology and volcanic-hosted massive sulfide alteration in the Hellyer-Mt Charter region, Tasmania, using Random ForestsTM and Self-Organising Maps, Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, 61, (2) pp. 287-304. ISSN 0812-0099 (2014) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2013 Geological Society of Australia

DOI: doi:10.1080/08120099.2014.858081


The Hellyer–Mt Charter region of western Tasmania includes three known and economically significant volcanic-hosted massive sulfide (VHMS) deposits. Thick vegetation and poor outcrop present a considerable challenge to ongoing detailed geological field mapping in this area. Numerous geophysical and soil geochemical datasets covering the Hellyer–Mt Charter region have been collected in recent years. These data provide a rich source of geological information that can assist in defining the spatial distribution of lithologies. The integration and analysis of many layers of data in order to derive meaningful geological interpretations is a non-trivial task; however, machine learning algorithms such as Random Forests and Self-Organising Maps offer geologists methods for indentifying patterns in high-dimensional (many layered) data. In this study, we validate an interpreted geological map of the Hellyer–Mt Charter region by employing Random ForestsTM to classify geophysical and geochemical data into 21 discrete lithological units. Our comparison of Random Forests supervised classification predictions to the interpreted geological map highlights the efficacy of this algorithm to map complex geological terranes. Furthermore, Random Forests identifies new geological details regarding the spatial distributions of key lithologies within the economically important Que-Hellyer Volcanics (QHV). We then infer distinct but spatially contiguous sub-classes within footwall and hangingwall, basalts and andesites of the QHV using Self-Organising Maps, an unsupervised clustering algorithm. Insight into compositional variability within volcanic units is gained by visualising the spatial distributions of sub-classes and associated statistical distributions of key geochemical data. Compositional differences in volcanic units are interpreted to reflect contrasting primary composition and VHMS alteration styles. We conclude that combining supervised and unsupervised machinelearning algorithms provides a widely applicable, robust means, of analysing complex and disparate data for machine-assisted geological mapping in challenging terranes.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:random forests, self-organising maps, machine learning, geological mapping, volcanic-hosted massive sulfide, Tasmania
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Geophysics
Research Field:Geophysics not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences
UTAS Author:Cracknell, MJ (Dr Matthew Cracknell)
UTAS Author:Reading, AM (Professor Anya Reading)
ID Code:92289
Year Published:2014
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (CE0561595)
Web of Science® Times Cited:44
Deposited By:Earth Sciences
Deposited On:2014-06-12
Last Modified:2017-10-25
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