Australia ramps up resources exploration with $125m investment

The Australian Government has injected $125 million into expanding Geoscience Australia’s Exploring for the Future minerals exploration program to strengthen the resources sector.

EFTF has been focussed on exploring parts of northern Australia since 2016, with the government’s $125 million investment aiming to stretch the program to cover the rest of Australia for a further four years.

The program previously received $100.5 million from the federal government, which Australia’s Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said had been expanded to $225.5 million, providing long-term advantages to various sectors.

“Investments in the resources sector are investments in jobs and opportunity, especially in regional Australia,” he said.

“The Australian government is focussed on creating new jobs to help Australia recover from impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our resources sector has been the standout performer over the last few months, continuing to operate safely during these unprecedented times.

“This program will help deliver the next round of investment and job creation in our world-leading resources sector.”

Pitt said over 80 per cent of Australia was still under explored, with EFTF expected to boost the country’s resources potential.

According to a return on investment analysis by consulting firm ACIL Allen, EFTF’s benefits from activities could range between $446 million and $2.5 billion prior to the government’s $125 million investment.

“We are confident of the long term impacts of the existing program, with independent analysis of the first half the program, indicating it could deliver just over $2.5 billion in economic benefits and jobs in northern Australia,” Pitt said.

“More than ever before, we need the resources and agriculture sectors to be growing and helping lead our economic recovery following COVID-19.

“The existing program has already demonstrated significant success unlocking Australia’s resource potential in the north that extending it just made sense. This will give industry, investors and the broader community a consistent, nation-wide picture of our natural resource potential.”

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said the $125 million investment to the EFTF program would encourage more regional job availability.

“With other mining nations hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic while Australian mining continues to operate, Australia’s competitors will waste no time in attempting to increase their share of the recovery,” Constable said.

“Australia’s exploration investment is likely to decrease and may take some time to recover as some commodity prices decrease substantially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Exploration investment is the foundation of Australia’s mining industry, which generates $289 billion in export revenue, directly and indirectly supports 1.1 million jobs and contributes $39 billion in royalties and taxes to Australian governments.”

South Australia is also set to receive further economic benefits from the investment, with the state’s mining revenue sitting at $2.4 billion, $700 million of which came from the state’s exploration incentive programs.

According to South Australian Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Rebecca Knol, the state’s resources sector has bolstered its economy during COVID-19.

“The strength of the resources sector has underpinned the South Australian economy during the turbulence of the coronavirus pandemic, providing much-needed job stability at a time where stability was most needed,” she said.

“The South Australian resources sector is well positioned to play an important role in the nation’s post COVID-19 recovery and exploration incentives such as the ‘Exploring for the Future’ program is critical to the discovery of new deposits and ensuring a continuing pipeline of resources projects and jobs.”

The Queensland Government also boosted its state’s mineral exploration potential, announcing  a $10 million funding boost for exploration grants last week.

The first phase of EFTF that is focussed on northern Australia is set to be finished this month, with the $125 million extending the program nationally for another four years.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.