Article – NT preparing for minerals exploration boom

19 March 2014
Lauren Fitzgerald
ABC Rural

PHOTO: More than 200 delegates registered for the 2014 Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar, down from nearly 250 last year.

The amount of money being spent on minerals exploration in the Northern Territory might be down on previous years, but delegates at regional industry conference were optimistic.
With more than 200 delegates present, attendance at the Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar in Alice Springs was down on previous years and there were no big announcements.
The latest Geological Survey for the Northern Territory was a feature of the gathering, it shows that expenditure on minerals exploration (not including petroleum) has dropped from $131.7 million in 2012 to $113.3 million last year.
The executive director of the NT Minerals Council, Drew Wagner, says while the mining boom may have ended, now is the time to prepare for an increase in exploration activity.
“A lot of that (drop in expenditure) has been the case that we’ve actually focused on a small number of sites, we can’t have this scattergun approach that we’ve had in previous years,” he said.
“We are literally talking billions (of dollars worth) of investment in exploration, billions of investment in construction, and ongoing billions of ongoing return once these mines actually become operational. ”
Economic potential for entire region
Mr Wagner says the Northern Territory needs the economic stimulation that the mining industry will potentially yield.
He describes Alice Springs as a ‘town in decline, a town without hope’.
“The Tourism industry has struggled for quite some time, as has the agricultural sector with the conditions we’ve had.
“But what we’re seeing at the moment with the exploration happening in these basins at this point in time means that we might see some economic stimulation within the town because we’ll start seeing some logistic and supply bases.
“We’ll see a lot more movement through the area with technical expertise and opportunities, and hopefully a lot more opportunity for regional employment as well.”
Untapping the Amadeus Basin
There was broad consensus at the gathering that while the mining boom may have come to an end, there are still plenty of mineral deposits to be explored in the Northern Territory.
And while there is a high rate of unemployment for Australian geoscientists, the NT Geoscience Survey has doubled the number that they employ from nine to 18 in the last 18 months.
Central Australia in particular is seen as a future hub of exploration and mining activity, with a focus on the Amadeus Basin and Arunta Province.
Susanne Schmid from the CSIRO is leading the Central Oz Basin Resource Assessment project (COBRA), and says there is still a lot that we don’t know about the region.
“We know we have about 40 petroleum holes and that’s all over 170, 000 square km, so that’s a very sparse knowledge about any potential minerals or petroleum system,” she said.
As the COBRA project goes into its final year, Susanne Schmid says the team will be focusing on creating a 3D model of the basin.
“And to create a database that will become freely available in a couple of years time to anyone through the NTGS (Northern Territory Geoscience Survey).”
“It’s for explorers, and especially it is setting up a framework to lower the risk for exploration.”
Courtesy of ABC Rural