Queensland’s North West a ‘new frontier’ for rare mineral discoveries

An area within Queensland’s North West region has been identified as the state’s next frontier of resource investment after geologists found evidence of undiscovered rare minerals.

Referred to as the Diamantina Minerals Province, the area comprises the copper, gold and platinum rich Fifield region in central New South Wales through Queensland’s north west and up into the Merlin diamond mine in the Northern Territory.

Researchers from the University of Queensland and Department of Natural Resources Mines (DNRM) found evidence of platinum, gold and rare earth elements (REE) in the province.

“This may be a whole new frontier for Queensland,” natural resources and mines minister Anthony Lynham said.

The potential resource was found when the geologists discovered extremely rare geological pipe structures in a remote area of western Queensland. The pipes could be up to six kilometres in diameter.

Minerals likely to be in the pipes include copper, nickel, cobalt, light and heavy REE, tantalum, scandium, niobium, silver, gold and platinum group metals as well as the potential for diamonds.

REE are particularly used in ‘green technologies’ such as hybrid vehicle batteries and other technologies such as super conducting magnets, which are in high demand worldwide.

“Advanced technologies such as fuel cells (scandium), mobile phones (tantalum), super-conducting magnets (niobium) and hybrid vehicle batteries (cobalt) all rely on access to the minerals we believe are here,” Lynham said.

“An opportunity exists for the right type of company to maximise this detailed geological information and take it to the next step commercially.”

Global REE production is an estimated 112,500 tonnes with an economic value between $4-6 billion.

Several REE are likely to be in short supply outside of China in the next 10-15 years.

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