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Partnership developed to create new exploration technologies

Editorial
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Geoscience Australia and Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC) are partnering together to uncover new Australian mineral provinces.

Part of this new agreement will also aid the creation of new exploration and drilling technologies that allow exploration through cover rocks that obscure prospective geology, a serious problem in regions like the Pilbara where some of the world’s oldest rocks, and rock cover, is found.

Much of the program is focused on dramatically cutting down the geochemical and mineralogical analysis and assays of drilling samples.

This new partnership may be a boon for Australia, which is currently experiencing a major decline in exploration.

An IBISWorld report released earlier this year pointed to a continued decline in exploration in Australia.

This is no surprise for an industry that has already seen global exploration budgets take a massive hit.

Global non-ferrous metal exploration budgets have plummeted almost 30 per cent this year, new research suggests.

SNL Metal Economics Group’s Corporate Exploration Strategies surveyed almost 3500 mining companies around the world.

The group found total non-ferrous exploration budgets fell to $US 15.2 billion.

Major miners recorded a 24 per cent drop in exploration spend, whilst juniors took a bigger hit, with exploration budgets falling 39 per cent over 2012.

In Queensland alone explorers’ market capitalisation fell 31% in 2012-13 to $732 million.

Access to equity capital was listed as a significant problem with companies exploring in Queensland announcing $63 million in capital raisings in 2012-13, down 76 per cent in comparison to 2011-12.

Nationally, the amount of raisings was down 60 per cent in 2012-13 from $853 million to $342 million.

The latest IBISWorld report predicts the sector will continue to decline, falling another 7.5% over 2014.

According to Geoscience Australia this is also due to “the face that relatively easy-to-find mineral deposits with a surface expression have largely been uncovered”.

“New mineral provinces must be found hidden beneath barren cover rocks and new technologies are needed to search more efficiently and effectively.”

To overcome this issue, DET CRC will manage a drilling technology program on behalf of Geoscience Australia and the Geological Survey of Victoria in the Stavely Zone of western Victoria.

“Through this drilling program, Geoscience Australia and the Geological Survey of Victoria will seek to test a new geological interpretation of the region and to uncover the key geological indicators of potential new mineral provinces hosting metals such as copper, gold, nickel, and base metals.

It will uncover these new regions using conventional diamond drilling combined with new real-time downhole and top-of-hole sensing technologies.

The company said it would collaborate with the CSIRO, drilling technology and services company Imdex, and Olympus to deploy its Lab-at-Rig analytical system to “provide geochemical and mineralogical information on drilling samples as they are recovered [and] the data will be uploaded to the internet for real-time remote access; such new technologies seek to inform drilling decisions and, in due course, to replace time consuming and expensive lab based assays of drilling samples”.

DET CRC’s CEO, Richard Hillis, stated that “this collaboration provides an opportunity to field test and ‘pull through’ the new technologies that will be required to explore the 80 per cent of the Australian continent where mineral deposits are hidden beneath barren cover”.

“It is also a great example of different organisation collaborating under the UNCOVER mineral exploration strategy of the Australian Academy of Science.”

Andy Barnicoat, head of Geoscience Australia’s mineral division, said “our goal is to provide pre-competitive data on the mineral potential of unexplored areas of Australia where prospective rocks are obscured by barren cover”.

“Drilling provides a critical source of information to confirm the nature of concealed geology, which reduces the technical risk to mineral explorers. Through this collaboration we will not only undertake this advanced drilling, but also help develop new technologies that are required for cost-effective and successful mineral exploration through cover, thereby assisting exploration in all covered areas of the Australian continent.”

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