World’s largest mineral exploration collaboration launched

A $218 million research organisation designed to develop mineral-discovery technologies has been launched by South Australian Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

The MinEx Cooperative Research Centre (MinEx CRC) will focus on developing technologies that unlock the value of mineral deposits that lie beneath deep rock cover, and enhance the productivity of drilling with a simultaneous data collection capability.

The CRC has received $50 million in Federal Government CRC funding, on top of $165 million backing from its 34 mining and mining equipment, technology and services (METS) participants over the next 10 years. The companies include BHP, South32, Anglo American and Barrick.

MinEx CRC chairman Chris Pigram said the launch was instigated by the decline in the discovery of new mineral deposits, which poses a threat to Australia’s economy.

“There are few, if any, major new mineral deposits that are exposed at the earth’s surface yet to be found in Australia, and as a result, mineral exploration is moving from Australia to less well explored countries,” he said.

“Today (October 15) is an exciting day for Australia’s mining and resources sector, as we begin meeting the technical challenge of finding deposits in a more cost-effective way.”

Australia’s share of global mineral exploration is now (12.5 per cent), which is half of that in the 1990s (25 per cent). This was partly caused by an increase in cost of drilling over the past 20 years.

In an attempt to address this issue, MinEx CRC chief executive Andrew Bailey said, “[The CRC] will develop new exploration tools and new ways to deploy them, that will recognise the fundamental importance of collecting data from the subsurface.”

“Lowering the cost of drilling, while gathering critical exploration data, means we can drill more holes and discover more deposits.

“Cheaper, safer and more efficient drilling technologies have the potential to increase our chance of finding new deposits, and decrease the cost of developing them – providing Australia with a more competitive and sustainable mining industry.”

Additionally, the CRC is launching National Drilling Initiative (NDI), a world-first collaboration of government geological surveys, researchers and industry that will undertake drilling in under-explored areas of potential mineral wealth.

It sees the CRC’s focus to advance the capability of coiled tubing (CT) drilling so it can drill deeper, be steerable and deliver samples of the highest quality. The technology has the potential to save 20 per cent of the conventional diamond drilling cost.

The MinEx CRC is supported by high-standing institutions including CSIRO, Curtin University, the University of Adelaide, the University of South Australia, Geoscience Australia and all geological surveys in Australia.

It has also received significant contributions from New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia.

MinEx CRC is dual headquartered in Western Australia and South Australia.

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