The Victorian Government has earmarked $15 million to drive mineral exploration in regional and rural Victoria.
Allocated in this week's 2014-15 Victorian State Budget, the funds form the basis of a new program call TARGET.
Energy and Resources minister Russell Northe said the new TARGET program would enable increased involvement by the state government to co-fund the companies wishing to undertake greenfields exploration projects in the State’s northeast, north, west and parts of the east.
“This new initiative will see the Government working with industry to drive exploration and development of new mineral resources for the benefit of all Victorians,” Northe said.
“Victoria is a great place to explore for minerals and our plan is to identify new opportunities and encourage mining and exploration companies to come and invest here.”
Under the new TARGET initiative, grants will be made available to co-fund exploration project activities such as drilling and geoscientific surveys.
A panel of appropriately qualified and independent experts, not yet selected, will provide advice on the granting of funds and the activities carried out under the initiative.
A spokesperson for the Victorian government’s department of energy and resources said the scheduling for grants is currently being developed, with a view to enabling companies to apply by the last quarter of this year.
“We are currently scoping the requirements for grant eligibility and the funding model, however the level of co-funding available will be attractive and uncapped (within the budget allocation) so that projects can be assessed properly on their merits,” the spokesperson said.
“Funding will be provided on a 50:50 basis.”
TARGET co-funding will be available to exploration projects on both brown- and greenfields sites, and domestic and international companies which hold or apply for tenements under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Developments) Act.
“Exploration and mining is a global industry and Victoria is open for business,” Northe said.
According to the department all data captured under the TARGET initiative, such as information taken from drilling and geoscientific surveys, will be made publically available approximately three months after submission to the Geological Survey of Victoria in a TARGET Report.
“Such data would normally only become publically available after expiry of a tenement, typically many years after collection,” a departmental spokesperson said.
The TARGET program will work in with the existing $19.5 million Strengthening Earth Resources initiative, which already helps to stimulate exploration and mining in Victoria.
Association of Mining and Explorations Companies (AMEC) chief executive Simon Bennison welcomed the initiative, saying that it “will bring Victoria in line with other states’ support for the exploration sector”.
“Victoria must become both a nationally and internationally competitive investment destination to attract mining and exploration projects,” Bennison said.
“AMEC has consistently stated that Government and industry must work together to increase mineral exploration to find the mines of tomorrow, for the benefit of all Australians.
“The Fraser Institute’s 2013 annual global survey of mining executives released in March this year showed there is still work to be done; however the TARGET co-funded drilling and geoscience surveys will certainly help Victoria work toward this.
“The TARGET program in Victoria will not only assist companies through co-funding, but the data that will be made available online to other exploration and mining companies will also help to encourage future investment in Victoria.
“Reducing costs and timeframes for approvals processes for mining and exploration projects must also be addressed to maintain a pipeline of projects to sustain the industry.”
“Victoria was built on its rich mineral resources with the 1850s gold rush quickly putting our great state on the global map and driving a flourishing economy with vibrant local communities,” Mr Northe said.
“We are investing now to build a strong and sustainable mining industry in Victoria that creates more jobs and makes a significant long term contribution to the economy while protecting the environment, respecting the rights of landholders and working with other key industries like agriculture.
“The quality geological data acquired through the TARGET program will help attract future investment from the mining sector and encourage further exploration in Victoria, within the context of a highly competitive global industry.”