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Journal Articles Journal of Applied Geophysics Year : 2003

Use of airborne gamma-ray spectrometry for kaolin exploration


Airborne gamma-ray spectrometry was used to define targets with kaolin potential in the Armorican Massif of Brittany, France. This exploration method is based on the principle that kaolinite, an aluminosilicate clay mineral constituting kaolin, is formed by the hydrolysis of potash feldspar with the elimination of potassium. Therefore, potassium contrast between favourable host-rock such as a leucogranite and kaolin occurrence is likely a significant pathfinder. As the relationship between the potassium-40 recorded by an airborne gamma-ray spectrometer and total potassium is constant, such data provide us a direct measurement of the potassium content of the ground flown over. Our study tested this by calculating, for each geological unit, the difference between the measured and average potassium content calculated for a given geological formation. The study was based on (i) a recent (1998) high-definition airborne geophysical survey over the Armorican Massif undertaken on behalf of the French Government, and (ii) new geological compilation maps covering the same region. Depleted zones, where the measured potassium is less than the average potassium content calculated target areas with high potential of containing kaolin, provided that the unit was originally rich in potash feldspar. By applying this method to the entire Armorican Massif, it was possible to identify 150 potassium-depleted zones, including 115 that were subjected to rapid field checks and 36 that contained kaolin (21 new discoveries). This method, which is both safe for the environment and easy to use, is therefore a good tool for rapidly defining targets with kaolin potential at a regional scale. The method may also have possibilities in exploring for other types of deposit characterised by an enrichment or depletion in U, K and/or Th.

Dates and versions

hal-04082733 , version 1 (26-04-2023)



Bruno Tourlière, J Perrin, P Leberre, J Pasquet. Use of airborne gamma-ray spectrometry for kaolin exploration. Journal of Applied Geophysics, 2003, 53 (2-3), pp.91-102. ⟨10.1016/S0926-9851(03)00040-5⟩. ⟨hal-04082733⟩


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