WA boosts minerals exploration funding

Diamond drill rig set up at Legend Mining’s Rockford Project in the Fraser Range.

The Western Australian Government has announced $8.2 million in funding for resources exploration to fuel the state’s COVID-19 recovery.

The investment is part of the WA Recovery Plan, aiming to drive further exploration opportunities and strengthen the state’s geoscience information in its resources sector.

A total of  $5 million will be provided to the existing Exploration and Incentive Scheme (EIS), while $3.2 million will be given to Curtin University for a next-gen ion microprobe.

The Curtin University funding will allow the institution to claim a further $5 million in Commonwealth funding for the purchase a CAMECA-1300 ion microprobe.

The new instrument, which is designed to analyse geological materials, will replace Curtin’s 27-year old ion microprobe which is no longer operational.

Curtin previously used the microprobe to receive data about the timing of mineralising events, with its replacement also to be used to support the Australian Space Agency’s interest in deep space sample return missions.

Western Australia’s Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston described the ion microprobe as “next-generation”.

“The new ion microprobe instrument is next-generation, it will be an Australian-first and one of only five in the world,” he said.

“It will revolutionise our understanding of how and when Western Australia’s key mineral deposits formed.

“Our resources industry are already world-leaders in technology and research; having access to the ion microprobe will provide the state with a unique technological advantage to discover the next generation of resources.

“Interestingly, the ion microprobe has potential applications well beyond the resources sector, such as understanding the formation of our solar system.”

The EIS’ $5 million funding now makes up $15 million in state government support in 2020-21, and includes high-level programs such as a 50 per cent refund for innovative drilling in areas of WA that are under-explored and ultimately create jobs.

“My government is committed to supporting Western Australia’s resources industry, and ensuring our state rebounds stronger than ever from the effects of COVID-19,” Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said.

“The additional $5 million funding will invigorate the industry and allow more exploration companies to participate in the co-funded drilling program, creating jobs for Western Australians.

“The flow-on effect from this additional investment in exploration and technology will result in drilling companies deploying more rigs and workers, and lead to new resource discoveries.”

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