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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

Geoscience Australia supports the responsible development of a diverse resources sector in Australia’s low-carbon economy.

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

A total of 13 exploration companies have taken up new mineral exploration tenements in northern Australia as a direct result of pre‑competitive information released through the Exploring for the Future (EFTF) program.

More than 250 new pre-competitive datasets and publications have been publicly released to reduce technical risk in resource decision making, and to support new investment in Australia’s resource sector.

Key datasets include:

  • a solid geology map of the North Australian Craton that will aid resource explorers to better understand the geological history and resource potential in the region
  • magnetotelluric data collected over 9000 square kilometres of the East Tennant region, providing insight into the basement architecture and mineral potential of the area
  • airborne electromagnetic (AEM) data covering approximately 2.2 million square kilometres of northern Australia. This survey was the largest of its kind undertaken in Australia and enables mapping of mineral and water resources up to a depth of 500 metres below the surface in this vast area
  • seismic reflection data from surveys spanning more than 2000 kilometres over the Barkly Tableland, South Nicholson Basin and Kidson Sub-basin, that will aid further exploration for oil, gas and basin-hosted mineral systems
  • data from a new 2680 metre-deep stratigraphic well in Western Australia’s Canning Basin that will improve understanding of the potential for oil and gas resources
  • more than 3400 square kilometres of Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data from the Upper Burdekin catchment in northern Queensland, that provides high-precision detail on surface elevation, increasing our understanding of surface water movement and aiding water management planning.

Deliver integrated resource assessment for northern Australia

Geoscience Australia launched a new online Data Discovery Portal that provides an integrated resource assessment for northern Australia, with free access to more than 250 datasets and reports, including from geophysical surveys, geochemical sampling, hydrological mapping and stratigraphic drilling. The online portal includes a suite of analysis tools to assist with project development, and resource management and planning.

Energy Pre-competitive Information

Program deliverable1

Result

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

The Energy Pre-competitive Information program delivered 21 studies of the geological evolution and resource potential of onshore and offshore energy systems. These include:

  • Stage 2 Geological and Bioregional Assessment (GBA) reports for the Beetaloo Sub-basin, Isa Superbasin and Cooper Basin, to support sustainable development of unconventional gas resources in these regions
  • two collaborative scientific papers for the International Ocean Discovery Program, furthering scientific understanding of the geology of the Earth beneath the sea floor of the Lord Howe Rise and Mentelle Basin, and in offshore eastern and southwest Australia, respectively
  • five studies that provide information on the petroleum systems of the offshore Northwest Shelf, including a new and highly prospective gas province.

Minerals Pre-competitive Information

Program deliverable1

Result

Deliver new pre-competitive data from greenfield undercover regions

To better understand Australia’s mineral potential, including critical minerals, and to stimulate new resource exploration activities, Geoscience Australia:

  • released geophysical data from 24 regional-scale surveys to undercover greenfield regions across Australia
  • acquired eight industry-funded infill geophysical surveys, the data from which will be publicly released within 12 months
  • rebuilt and modernised the Geophysical Archive and Data Delivery System (GADDS 2.0), ensuring stakeholders have access to the latest national pre-competitive geophysical data to inform investment decision making
  • released new national grids for magnetic, gravity and radiometric data, and updated the Australian Fundamental Gravity Network
  • determined 120 new geological ages of key rock units and geological events through the online Geochron Delivery System
  • indexed new information from 219 geological maps and reports through the Australian Stratigraphic Units Database (ASUD), maintaining a nationally consistent geological evidence base to guide resource exploration decisions. More than 49 000 users accessed the ASUD in 2019–20.

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

Geoscience Australia delivered 18 geological studies about the evolution and resource potential of undercover greenfield regions across Australia. The studies were published on Geoscience Australia’s website and in scientific journals, including two papers in the highly regarded Nature Geoscience journal. Publication of these studies provides independent scientific benchmarking for Geoscience Australia’s programs, supporting confident investment decision making in industry and government.

Resources Advice and Promotion

Program deliverable1

Result

Promote and attract investment in the Australian mineral and energy resource sectors

Geoscience Australia attracted investment into the Australian mineral and energy resource sectors by:

  • promoting Australia’s mineral investment opportunities, including in critical minerals, at resources investment forums in Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing; at the China Mining Congress and Expo; at investor meetings in New York; and at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention. All promotion activities were undertaken in collaboration with state and territory jurisdictions
  • promoting current and emerging oil and gas investment opportunities at the North American Prospect Expo in Houston state and territory regulators
  • using company visits in Tokyo, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur to promote the annual Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release in collaboration with the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources
  • promoting the Australian Energy Resources Assessment and Australia’s Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release areas at the Good Oil Conference in Perth, Western Australia
  • releasing the 2019 edition of Australia’s Identified Mineral Resources, Operating Mines and Exploration Review maps.

Deliver geological material to support the Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release

Geoscience Australia completed regional geological summaries covering the 49 areas that were presented for public consultation prior to the Australian Government’s final determination of areas to be released under the 2020 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release.

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

Geoscience Australia provided technical advice to the Australian Government in response to:

  • 197 Foreign Investment Review Board consultation requests, valued at $324.9 billion in total
  • 63 requests related to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)
  • 74 requests for technical advice from a range of stakeholders on the topics of reserve and resource classification, resource life estimation, operating mines, critical minerals, gold, coal, resource life, mineral promotions and geological storage of CO2.

Geoscience Australia completed a national study of hydrogen production potential for the National Hydrogen Strategy Taskforce. This work made a significant contribution to the National Hydrogen Strategy, showing the location of regions in Australia with excellent hydrogen production potential, and including development of an online hydrogen mapping tool, available at AusH2.ga.gov.au.

Technical advice and peer review in support of the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility characterisation process was provided to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

Completed an assessment of Australia’s resource commodities. The government will release the assessment in 2020–21.

Deliver pre-competitive information and develop an increased understanding of geological CO2 sequestration

Geoscience Australia continued to lead research to improve knowledge of geological storage of CO2, in collaboration with CO2CRC, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), industry and university researchers. We also commenced a project to assess the national CO2 enhanced oil recovery potential, including a national map identifying all depleted oil and gas reservoirs, to be publicly released in late 2020.

Key performance indicator (KPI)1

Target

Result

Provide advice in relation to the EPBC Act within the stated response period

100%

95%

Geoscience Australia received 63 EPBC referrals and proposed approvals. We delivered technical advice on 60 referrals within the stated response period. The remaining three referrals were delivered outside the response period due to the complexity of the requests.

1Source: 2019–20 Corporate Plan

Case Study

Promoting investment in Australia’s mineral sector

Key to Australia’s economic wealth and prosperity is the continued growth of Australia’s resources sector through exploration activities that lead to new discoveries. The Australian Government is committed to delivering the most globally attractive and competitive investment destination for resource projects. Throughout 2019–20, Geoscience Australia partnered with state and territory geoscience organisations under the Australia Minerals brand to promote Australia as a world-class destination for investment in high-quality coal, iron ore, gas, gold, copper and critical minerals, at premier international and national industry trade events. A key message was Australia’s strengths as a leading and responsible supplier of minerals to the world.

These events were augmented with targeted visits to Australia’s key mineral and energy trading partners, including company visits in the United States, Canada, Japan, Korea and China.

Building on Australia’s highly prospective geology and vast untapped potential, we used these events to promote new and emerging mineral provinces, many of which were drawn from Geoscience Australia’s successful EFTF program. This saw a significant increase in engagement with industry, especially on Geoscience Australia’s EFTF online Data Discovery Portal. Thirteen companies have taken up new exploration tenements in northern Australia as a direct result of pre-competitive information released from the EFTF program and on the back of this increased engagement.

In March 2020, Chalice Gold Mines discovered nickel and platinum group elements in Julimar, Western Australia. The company publicly acknowledged that Geoscience Australia’s 2016 report and continental-scale map of mineral potential for nickel, copper and platinum group elements, which was developed as part of the Mineral Potential Mapper project, 'provided valuable input into Chalice’s regional targeting, particularly when applied to frontier areas'.

Performance analysis

In 2019–20, Geoscience Australia substantially improved our knowledge of the mineral and energy resource potential in northern Australia under the four-year, $100.5 million EFTF program. Thirteen companies, including a re-entrant to Australia, have taken up new mineral tenement acreage based on the pre-competitive data from the EFTF program, 10 of them publicly stating that they used EFTF data to form their decision to invest in Australia. These investments will provide short, medium and long-term opportunities for regional jobs and economic growth. Modelling by ACIL Allen, published in January 2020, demonstrated that the estimated total benefits from three activities in the program could be worth up to $2.5 billion, with returns to the Australian Government of up to $632 million. In June 2020, based on the success of the EFTF program, the Australian Government announced it will invest an additional $125 million over four years to extend the program nationwide.

Geoscience Australia’s leadership in promoting exploration opportunities in the Australian resources sector continues to ensure that we remain a country of choice for international investment and trade. Our support for the Australian Government’s Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release program saw a total of 64 areas released by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources—the largest release since 2000. Our promotion of exploration opportunities and provision of free pre-competitive geological information continued to underpin strong overseas investment in the minerals sector. Geoscience Australia continued to show global scientific leadership in understanding critical mineral potential through our research collaboration with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Geological Survey of Canada, and by providing technical advice to the Australian Government’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office.

Geoscience Australia’s technical advice underpinned the development of Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy. The entity’s maps of high potential for clean hydrogen prospectivity are contributing to a domestic hydrogen industry. Since being made available through the National Hydrogen Strategy, the maps have provided an evidence base for the development of hydrogen projects across Australia. This work is also supporting the Australian Government’s development of a national Technology Investment Roadmap, which will drive investment in low-emission technologies.

Geoscience Australia partners with state and territory geological surveys to support a nationally consistent approach to characterising Australia’s minerals, energy and groundwater resource potential. Through its engagement with the Geoscience Working Group, and using the National Collaboration Framework, Geoscience Australia has led the implementation of the former Council of Australian Governments (now the National Federation Reform Council) Energy Council National Mineral Exploration Strategy. This strategy supports exploration activities in the Australian minerals industry, delivers pre-competitive programs that demonstrate Australia’s resource potential and underpins the government’s National Resources Statement.