Richard Lilly

Dr Richard Lilly

University Research Fellow

School of Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Richard Lilly is currently the Program Leader for the National Exploration Undercover School (NExUS) and an embedded Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide. The role involves coordinating a range of minerals industry related research projects, supervision and teaching. In 2016 Richard co-founded the National Exploration Undercover School (NExUS), a Minerals Council of Australia-funded 3-week summer school, which aims to assist and train the next generation of mineral exploration geoscientists. Richard completed his PhD on the northern Oman ophiolite at Cardiff University (UK) and worked with Rio Tinto and Chevron before joining Mount Isa Mines (formally Xstrata Copper) exploration in 2007 based in Mount Isa, North West Queensland. In his role as Senior Exploration Geologist he instigated and co-supervised a range of applied research projects with the aim of improving exploration targeting, before returning to an industry funded academic role in 2015 as the Mount Isa Mines Embedded Research Fellow (2015-2018).

Overview: Dr. Richard Lilly is the NExUS Program Leader and Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide. His research interests aim to understand how ore deposits are formed and to assist in the geochemical exploration for new resources. Richard has 8 years of experience working as a Senior Exploration Geologist (Mount Isa Mines) and brings an industry perspective to his applied research projects and teaching of undergraduate economic geology courses. Richard also serves as an industry-academic boundary spanner; assisting the engagement between the university sector and the minerals industry and the discussion about the future of geoscience education in Australia.

Dr. Richard Lilly in the field with the 2017 NExUS group.
Dr. Richard Lilly teaching mineral identification in the field with the 2017 NExUS group. 


In 2021 Richard was a finalist in the STEMM Educator of the Year category of the 2021 South Australian Science Excellence and Innovation awards! The awards recognise South Australia’s top scientists, researchers, educators and innovators for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of science and research.


Richard joined the University of Adelaide in 2015 as the Mount Isa Mines Embedded Research Fellow, an industry (Mount Isa Mines - Glencore) funded academic position within the Department of Earth Science (School of Physical Sciences). The role (2015-2019) involved coordinating and supervising a range of applied economic geology research projects at Universities across Australia and Europe and to establish strong industry-academic links. Additionally, Dr. Richard Lilly teaches economic geology courses to undergraduates. Research was completed through numerous projects including Honours, Masters and PhD level studies which were coordinated to directly address specific geological questions at Mount Isa Mines operations in NW Queensland. The five core research themes were:

  1. Exploration Through Cover; aims to establish innovative geochemical exploration techniques including the use of a soil gas technique and biogeochemistry to generate new drill targets under cover.
  2. Deposit Scale Characterisation; detailed geological, geochemical and geophysical modelling and structural studies of current ore bodies (Mount Isa Cu and Ernest Henry IOCG) and advanced exploration targets to maximise near-mine and brown-fields exploration targeting.
  3. District Scale Ore Systems; studies of temporal and spatial variations of ore systems and the implications for district and regional prospectivity for improved exploration targeting and ground evaluation.
  4. Production Challenges; identification of key geological and metallurgical questions to overcome technical challenges across different MIM business units.
  5. Emerging Projects; identification and assessment of applicability of advanced and emerging technologies and to maintain flexibility of research studies to meet changing business needs and maximise knowledge transfer for MIM staff.

The Mount Isa Mines Embedded Research Fellow role ran successfully from 2015-2019 and has since transitioned into continued collaboration through ongoing research projects.

Since 2018 Richard has also been collaborating with other minerals industry partners including Hillgrove Resources (Kanmantoo Cu-Au deposit), SIMEC (exploration-related topics) and OZ Minerals (Carrapateena Cu-Au deposit) to progress our understanding on a range of ore systems.

National Exploration Undercover School (NExUS): In 2016 Dr. Richard Lilly co-founded the National Exploration Undercover School and since 2018 he has been the Program Leader. The 3 week summer school aims to provide exploration and geoscience training for some of Australia’s top graduates and undergraduates and to assist them with their careers. The NExUS summer school has received media interest and considerable positive feedback from the minerals industry as an innovative and forward thinking initiative. Since 2016 the program has a total of 206 alumni who work in every State and Territory of Australia.


Community engagement: Dr. Richard Lilly regularly gives geoscience and exploration focused talks in local schools and at outreach events. He is the University of Adelaide geology representative for the South Australian Society of Economic Geologists (SA SEG), Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), Adelaide University Geology Society (AUGS) and am a member of the national AIG mentoring program.

Richard is a passionate geologist and through his proactive teaching and mentoring roles at the University of Adelaide, is helping to teach and inspire the next generation of geoscientists and exploration geologists.

NExUS 2017 group on fieldwork in the Adelaide Hills
The 2017 NExUS group on fieldwork in the Adelaide Hills (December 2017)


  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2020 - ongoing Minerals Industry Embedded Research Fellow University of Adelaide
    2018 - ongoing Program Leader National Exploration Undercover School (NExUS University of Adelaide
    2015 - 2019 Mount Isa Mines Embedded Research Fellow University of Adelaide
    2007 - 2015 Senior Exploration Geologist (Cloncurry Projects) Mount Isa Mines (Glencore)
    2007 - 2007 Research Geologist University of Wales, Cardiff
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2002 - 2006 University of Wales, Cardiff United Kingdom PhD
    1997 - 2000 University of Wales, Cardiff United Kingdom B.Sc (Exploration Geology)
  • Research Interests

  • 2015-2018 Embedded Researcher Project fully funded by Mount Isa Mines.
  • Awarded $100k research funding by Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (Geological Survey of Queensland) for successful 'Geochemistry Through Cover' project trialling different surface regolith geochemical methods.
  • Currently member of ARC Linkage (Source to Spectrum) with collaborators from University of South Australia and Monash University (From Jan 2017)
  • 2018-2021 worked with various minerals industry companies on a range of applied research related to ore systems and exploration: Hillgrove Resources (Kanmantoo Cu-Au deposit), SIMEC (exploration-related topics) and OZ Minerals (Carrapateena Cu-Au deposit).
  • The NExUS program has been generously supported by the Mineral Council of Australia (MCA) since inception in 2016 and continues to be funded annually.
  • The NExUS program was also funded by OZ Minerals in the 2021-2023 period
  • Teach 2nd year undergraduate course 'Economic and Mine Geology' course.
  • Teach practical component of 3rd year undergraduate 'Mineral and Energy Resources' course.
  • Have given presentations and lectures on the full range of exploration geology, geochemistry, ore deposits and mining- and minerals industry-related topics.
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2018 - 2023 Co-Supervisor Sediment-hosted Zn-Pb-Ag (+ Cu) deposits in the Mount Isa region: An epigenetic approach to mineralisation Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Bradley Wade Cave
  • Position: University Research Fellow
  • Phone: 83130686
  • Email:
  • Fax: 83134380
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Mawson, floor B
  • Org Unit: Earth Sciences

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