OZ Minerals has established the Arkani Ngura Innovation and Technology Centre with funding from the 2021-22 South Australian budget.
The not-for-profit centre will provide a space for innovations in underground mining to be tested, trialled and developed, while improving the relevant workforce.
Located 120 kilometres south-east of Coober Pedy, near OZ’s Prominent Hill operations, the centre received $8 million over three years in the state budget.
Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan acknowledged the significance of the centre.
“From the potential to store hydrogen underground to the testing of prototype mining and defence equipment, this new facility will place South Australia at the forefront of industrial innovation,” van Holst Pellekaan said.
The state government budget labelled the centre a National Test Mine, indicating its significance to an expanding Australian resources sector.
OZ also intends for the centre to provide more opportunities for Aboriginal businesses and employees across the mining, space and similar sectors.
The centre will be delivered over the next three years, in line with plans to become self-sustaining by 2024.
Once operations are ramped up, 20 projects and demonstrations per year will benefit from the centre.
Additionally, the centre will run a training program to include up to 200 students per year.
Not all parties were pleased with the state budget’s outcomes, as the South Australian Chamber of Mines & Energy (SACOME) provided a begrudging acknowledgement of the centre’s funding.
“Despite being the powerhouse of the State’s economy, contributing increased royalties and supporting the state through the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resources sector will receive only modest funding in the 2021-22 state budget,” SACOME chief executive officer Rebecca Knol said.
“The funding of the Arkani Ngura National Test Mine and Innovation Centre…will help to drive technological innovation across a range of industry sectors, reinforcing that the resources sector continues to be the forefront of change and an industry of the future.”
SACOME stated it was disappointed in the omission of the Accelerated Discovery Initiative from the budget, after it was defunded in 2018 and reintroduced in the 2019-20 budget.
“The South Australian Government identified the resources sector as a key sector to assist in meeting its growth state targets,” Knol said.
“While the modest funding measures announced in the 2021-22 state budget are welcomed, they fall short of driving the radical economic change the government has tasked the South Australian resources sector with helping to achieve.”