Mines Minister Gordon Hill has applauded the initiative of staff at the Department of Minerals and Energy in developing a new piece of laboratory equipment to help Western Australia's mining industry.
The equipment will expedite the collection of information for inclusion in geological maps used extensively by the mineral exploration industry.
"The Department identifies the mineral content of between two and three thousand rock samples each year," Mr Hill said.
"This information forms the basis of geological maps used by the mining industry in its search for new mineral deposits.
"The new system is safer, quicker and more productive than the procedures it replaces, and a number of organisations, including Curtin University and the CSIRO, have expressed interest in the development."
The new item of equipment is tentatively known as a `thin section ultra-violet light mounting jig'.
The jig uses ultra-violet light to cure a compound which binds thin sections of rock on to glass slides. These are then viewed through a microscope to enable the minerals in the rock to be identified.
Prior to the development of the new jig, mounting thin sections of rock on slides involved extensive preparation - heating both the rock section and the slide on a conventional hot plate.
This procedure posed numerous problems for laboratory staff, including the risk of minor burns, and reduced productivity as a number of slides broke while cooling.
As the new jig uses ultra-violet light to bond the thin section to the slide, these problems are eliminated.
Development of the jig was a joint effort by two divisions of the department: the laboratory staff of the Geological Survey and the Chemistry Centre's workshop staff.
"This initiative is an excellent example of the 'behind-the-scenes' work the Department of Minerals and Energy undertakes to assist the mining industry in WA," Mr Hill said.