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Building Australia's resource wealth

Objective

Maximise benefits from Australia’s minerals and energy resources, now and into the future.

Role

To achieve this objective, Geoscience Australia attracts exploration investment to Australia by building a prospectus of minerals and energy resource potential.

Performance criteria and results

Table 2: Strategic priority: Building Australia’s resource wealth—performance

Exploring for the Future

Program deliverable1

Result

Release of pre-competitive information

Geoscience Australia released a range of pre-competitive information under its Exploring for the Future program. The release of datasets included:

  • the airborne electromagnetic survey between Mount Isa and Tennant Creek, released at the Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar in March 2019, which reveals the depth to prospective rocks buried undercover across an area larger than France and Germany combined
  • the 872-kilometre deep-seismic reflection profile in the remote Kidson Sub-basin in Western Australia between Kiwirrkurra and Marble Bar, released at the annual Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference in May 2019, which sheds light on a poorly understood region of Australia that will stimulate industry interest
  • the hydrogeochemistry survey results from the Tennant Creek, McArthur River, and Lake Woods regions in the Northern Territory, which better illustrate where potential mineral resources may be buried
  • a geochronology data compilation for northern Australia that builds a thorough understanding of the geological history of northern Australia
  • the second tranche of data from the Northern Australia Geochemical Survey, which further illustrates potential geochemical anomalies in the Tennant Creek to Mount Isa region
  • source rock geochemistry data that illustrates the origin and evolution of hydrocarbons in the McArthur Basin and aids explorers in refining their exploration models and strategies.

Pre-competitive geological, geophysical and hydrogeological data collected from groundwater surveys in the Southern Stuart Corridor (Northern Territory), East Kimberley (Northern Territory and Western Australia) and Upper Burdekin (Queensland) regions are being analysed and will be released in 2019–20.

Deliver integrated resource assessment for northern Australia

Geoscience Australia is developing a web portal providing access to minerals, energy and groundwater datasets, science products and decision support tools to guide government, industry and communities. The portal is expected to be available in 2019–20.

The portal prototype was demonstrated at venues around Australia, with strong interest from a range of stakeholders. Work has commenced on outreach to users to gather information on the most effective ways to deliver data and decision support tools via the web-based portal.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Energy Pre-competitive Information

Program deliverable1

Result

Deliver geological studies of the evolution and resource potential of onshore and offshore energy systems

Geoscience Australia signed an agreement for access to commercial-in-confidence 3D seismic data with a multi-client seismic company. The data will be integrated into regional prospectivity studies in offshore north-western Australia, to enable assessment of potential new petroleum systems in the region.

The prospectivity assessment of the central North West Shelf progressed and results were promoted to industry at national and international forums. Several pre-

competitive data packages were released to industry at the APPEA conference in May 2019, including regional digital surface products and a well folio.

Pre-competitive data packages and key findings from the geochemistry studies in the Roebuck Basin were presented and published, providing insight into the petroleum potential of that highly prospective but poorly understood area.

Geoscience Australia presented new work on hydrocarbon source rocks, promoting Australia’s resource potential, at the Australian Organic Geochemistry Conference in December 2018.

Work on the Lord Howe Rise initiative was completed and data were released via the National Offshore Petroleum Information Management System (NOPIMS) and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. This initiative produced deep crustal seismic data across the region and two seismic pre-drill site surveys to scope locations for deep stratigraphic drilling as well as associated environmental data. The results of this work contributed to significant new understanding of the prospectivity of this remote frontier region.

Deliver assessments of the energy potential of the Geological and Bioregional Assessment Program

Geoscience Australia assisted the Department of the Environment and Energy to undertake select unconventional gas play prospectivity assessments in three onshore basins: the Cooper Basin, the Isa Superbasin and the Beetaloo Sub-basin. For each basin, Geoscience Australia developed a Geological and Bioregional Assessments Program region synthesis report, geological report and prospectivity assessment report. All reports are due for publication in 2019–20.

Deliver new offshore exploration acreage opportunities from Energy Systems pre-competitive program in annual Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release

Under the revised Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release process, no offshore petroleum exploration acreage was due to be released in 2018–19. In anticipation of the July 2019 acreage release, Geoscience Australia is developing an updated suite of products conveying geological information for all nominated offshore basins where new acreage will be offered.

Geoscience Australia is also redeveloping its acreage-related webpages. The improved pages will be launched in July 2019, providing stakeholders with an enhanced opportunity to discover and engage with acreage-related products into the future.

All associated seismic and well data are made available through NOPIMS

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Minerals Pre-competitive Resource

Program deliverable1

Result

Deliver new pre-competitive data from greenfield undercover regions

Under the 2017–2022 National Mineral Exploration Strategy, endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council, Geoscience Australia collaborated with state and territory government bodies to:

  • become a participant in MinEx CRC—the world’s largest mineral exploration collaboration bringing together industry, government and research organisations— and make a 10-year commitment to provide leadership to research and drilling programs under the National Drilling Initiative
  • produce deeds for the technical specifications of airborne electromagnetic surveys and ground gravity surveys for use by industry and government to ensure that pre- competitive and exploration data are acquired to agreed standards by geophysical contractors—the specifications are being adopted as new international standards
  • undertake 13 airborne and ground gravity geophysical surveys—in South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland— and publicly release the data and associated science products
  • deliver a 629-kilometre dataset of deep seismic reflection data across the south- eastern Lachlan Orogen, spanning the Victoria – New South Wales border— the data will reveal new insights into the crustal structure and prospectivity of those greenfields areas, which have been underexplored due to extensive cover
  • acquire additional data in the Australian Lithospheric Architecture Magnetotelluric Project (AusLamp) program across Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, to contribute to the building of a national electrical conductivity map of the continent
  • deliver final results of the Southern Thomson region stratigraphic drilling project, via Geoscience Australia records and papers in a special issue of the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences
  • complete and deliver 120 new geochronological age dates for locations across Australia—Geoscience Australia’s sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) facility also undertook the first in-house analyses of xenotime, a rare-earth phosphate mineral, which will open up new methods for the dating of sedimentary rocks and mineral alteration events
  • release Estimates of Geological and Geophysical Surfaces derived from boreholes and depth to magnetic top analysis, delivering a better understanding of depth of cover—the geological surfaces are key inputs into economic modelling for resource viability assessments
  • publish 14 papers on Australian mineral systems, and release several products and reports on components of Geoscience Australia’s minerals programs under National Collaboration Framework arrangements with state and territory geological surveys.

Geoscience Australia also sought expressions of interest from the exploration industry to participate in airborne geophysical infill programs during the AusAEM program. This collaboration model facilitates industry adoption of new technology to explore under cover. Industry contributions have expanded the government’s airborne electromagnetic survey, while in-kind information sharing has led to better understanding of the groundwater and mineral resources at a regional and deposit scale.ivity of those greenfields areas, which have been underexplored due to extensive cover

  • acquire additional data in the Australian Lithospheric Architecture Magnetotelluric Project (AusLamp) program across Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, to contribute to the building of a national electrical conductivity map of the continent
  • deliver final results of the Southern Thomson region stratigraphic drilling project, via Geoscience Australia records and papers in a special issue of the Australian Journal of Earth Sciences
  • complete and deliver 120 new geochronological age dates for locations across Australia—Geoscience Australia’s sensitive high-resolution ion microprobe (SHRIMP) facility also undertook the first in-house analyses of xenotime, a rare-earth phosphate mineral, which will open up new methods for the dating of sedimentary rocks and mineral alteration events
  • release Estimates of Geological and Geophysical Surfaces derived from boreholes and depth to magnetic top analysis, delivering a better understanding of depth of cover—the geological surfaces are key inputs into economic modelling for resource viability assessments
  • publish 14 papers on Australian mineral systems, and release several products and reports on components of Geoscience Australia’s minerals programs under National Collaboration Framework arrangements with state and territory geological surveys.

Geoscience Australia also sought expressions of interest from the exploration industry to participate in airborne geophysical infill programs during the AusAEM program. This collaboration model facilitates industry adoption of new technology to explore under cover. Industry contributions have expanded the government’s airborne electromagnetic survey, while in-kind information sharing has led to better understanding of the groundwater and mineral resources at a regional and deposit scale.

Deliver geological studies of the evolution and resource potential of undercover regions to support mineral exploration investment

Geoscience Australia:

  • released Critical Metals in Australia: A Review of Opportunities and Research Needs, which provided advice on critical metals collaboration between Australia and the United States and generated significant external interest
  • hosted visits by senior exploration staff from major international mining companies, to present Geoscience Australia work programs that were pertinent to their respective exploration programs
  • delivered its fourth train-the-trainer workshop to the Geological Survey of India, on the subject of cover characterisation, under a memorandum of understanding arising from the government’s response to An India Economic Strategy to 2035.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Resources Advice and Promotion

Program deliverable1

Result

Deliver geological material to support the Offshore Petroleum Acreage Release

Geoscience Australia promoted Australia as an attractive exploration destination, nationally and internationally, at petroleum industry events such as the North American Prospect Expo, the Good Oil Conference, and conferences of the South East Asia Petroleum Exploration Society and APPEA, and through planned meetings with petroleum exploration companies. The geological knowledge and products tha support the Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release processes are integral to such promotions.

Deliver technical advice on mineral and energy resources, including the storage of CO2, to the Australian Government

Geoscience Australia delivered technical advice on mineral and energy resources, including by:

  • providing advice in response to 129 Foreign Investment Review Board consultation requests valued at $25.7 billion
  • responding to 68 requests for advice related to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
  • responding to 82 ad hoc requests for advice, from a wide range of stakeholders, on topics such as reserve and resource classification, resource life estimation, operating mines, critical minerals, gold, coal, resource life, mineral promotions, geological storage of carbon dioxide, monitoring, and fugitive methane emissions
  • collaborating with the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s Office of the Chief Economist to develop a joint assessment of the known and undiscovered resource potential—including mineral, petroleum and groundwater resources—in the Woomera Prohibited Area, to inform a review of the Woomera Prohibited Area Coexistence Framework undertaken on behalf of the Department of Defence
  • providing advice, maps, data and information to support Austrade and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science in the development of the Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus, Critical Minerals Projects in Australia and Australia’s Critical Minerals Strategy 2019
  • supporting Austrade’s tour to promote Australia’s critical commodities in the United States, Japan, Korea and Europe
  • providing maps, data and information to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science for the development of electorate briefing maps for the incoming government
  • together with state and territory partners, promoting Australia’s mineral investment opportunities at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention, at the China Mining Congress and Expo, and at meetings across India.

In collaboration with CO2CRC, CSIRO, industry and universities, Geoscience Australia led research on carbon dioxide migration through geological faults. The research aims to improve Australia’s understanding of the potential for fluid migration through faults, including by increasing predictive capacity, modelling and monitoring approaches. This understanding is key to providing support and advice on Australia’s capacity for safe geological storage of carbon dioxide.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Key performance indicator1

Target

2018–19 result

Provide advice in relation to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 within the stated response period

100%

100%

All advice under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 was provided within the stated response period.

1 Source: 2018–19 Corporate Plan.

Analysis of performance

Australia’s mineral and energy resources are a major contributor to the nation’s wealth, both economically and socially. Understanding the available resources is a prerequisite for formulating sound policies on resources and land access.

During 2018–19, Geoscience Australia continued to deliver world-class pre-competitive data to industry to attract minerals and energy exploration investment to Australia. Data is also provided to government and communities to sustainably manage groundwater resources.

Since re-entering exploration in Australia in 2017–18, the global mining company Anglo American has continued to acquire mineral exploration leases in previously unexplored areas of western Queensland. The company has publicly credited the excellent pre-competitive geoscientific data supplied by Geoscience Australia and the Geological Survey of Queensland with enabling its evaluation of previously under-explored parts of Australia.

Geoscience Australia supports the Australian Government and its partners in maintaining a regulatory and policy environment to benefit a stable, sustainable national resources sector. The high-quality expert advice, knowledge and information products that the organisation provides inform regulatory processes around establishing and expanding new industries in the sector.

There is a growing, worldwide focus on critical commodities. Australia has many of the minerals that industry requires to manufacture new technologies, such as batteries, solar photovoltaic cells and touch screens. Geoscience Australia’s knowledge and expertise enabled the Australian Government to develop a strategy and prospectus, as well as publications and international promotional activities, for Australia’s critical minerals market.