Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Mineral Exploration Malaise Uncovered

By Robert Smith

The UNCOVER Initiative aims to revive Australia’s minerals exploration efforts.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Australia’s global mineral exploration spending has plunged by half in the past two decades. New discoveries have become rare, and of the 12 tier-one discoveries made globally in the past decade, none were Australian.

With the right technology and commitment from the Australian government, industry and research sectors, we can create new opportunities.

What’s the Problem?

Discoveries in Australia were typically made at or near the surface by sampling minerals in an outcrop. A significant problem now is that the barren crust that covers around 70% of the continent usually provides no indication of what minerals lie below, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to explore beneath the surface in a cost-effective and competitive way. New technologies and new ways of applying them are necessary to assist in deeper exploration.

All ore bodies are finite, and all mines have a finite life. When the cost of recovery exceeds the value of the products generated, mines approach the end of their life and eventually must close unless the market changes. If new mineral discoveries aren’t made, the industry will die.

During a mining boom, when prices for mined products are high, there is usually money available to fund exploration. But when mines struggle to survive, cost-cutting is necessary and exploration suffers. Momentum is lost in...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.