b'IndustryNewsMinEx CRC: A new frontier in mineral explorationThere has been a dramatic decline inproductivity of the Australian miningfoster high quality research to solve the discovery of significant, new mineralindustry in recent decades. Productivityindustry-identified problems through deposits in Australia since the latewill continue to be challenged, andindustry-led and outcome-focused 1990s. Mineral and energy resourcesAustralias existing mines will becomecollaborative research partnerships contributed 50% of Australias exportsless competitive if the mining industrybetween industry entities and research and 7% of GDP in 20172018. The futurecontinues to mine down the grade oforganisations.of this contribution is at risk if we areknown deposits as opposed to makingencourage and facilitate small and unable to improve our rate of discovery.major, new high-grade discoveries. medium enterprise (SME) participation There are few, if any, significant newin collaborative research.mineral deposits with a clear surfaceA measure of the urgency of this situation expression remaining to be found inis that the long-term average time fromThe MinEx CRC is the worlds largest Australia, and exploration is beingdiscovery to mine production is currentlymineral exploration collaboration bringing driven toward the 70% of the Australian13 years, and is likely to increase intogether industry, government and landmass where prospective rocks arefuture as deeper deposits with greaterresearch organisations, backed by: $50M buried by post-mineralisation cover. Ourtechnical risk are mined. These longcash from the CRC Programme; $41M cash knowledge of the geology and minerallead times have a significant negativefrom geological surveys and industry; prospectivity of these covered regionsimpact on the net present value (NPV) of$49M non-staff in-kind; and $78M or is low, and our ability to explore withinAustralias mineral assets, which would be311FTE staff in-kind, totalling $218Mthem is limited. improved by the application of cheaperLed by industry participants, the MinEx and more rapid drilling technologies toCRC will create new opportunities for Mineral exploration through deep coverdeposit drill-outs. More importantly, themineral discovery by delivering; (1) more is expensive and carries high technicallong lead times demonstrate that theproductive, safer and environmentally risk. In the last two decades, explorationinvestment in technologies to reversefriendly drilling methods; (2) new has moved from low sovereign risk/hightrends of declining discovery, increasetechnologies for collecting data while technical risk areas such as Australia, toproductivity, and replace our mineraldrilling and; (3) exploration data on higher sovereign risk/less explored/lowerresource inventory with new, large, high- never before sampled rocks that are technical risk regions such as westerngrade deposits, must start now. hidden but prospective for minerals. Africa, South America and central Asia. ThisThe outcomes will also grow the high-trend has seen Australias share of globalMineral exploration would undoubtedlyvalue Mining Equipment, Technology expenditure on mineral exploration dropreturn to Australia if the tools (mostand Services (METS) sector. MinEx CRCs from 1/4 in the 1990s to 1/8 currently.importantly drilling and associatedresearch agenda is defined by three Over the same period there has been asensing technologies) existed with whichprogramme streams listed below.decline in exploration devoted to makingto explore through deep cover cost-new greenfield discoveries. At presenteffectively. More drilling will lead to a 70% of all drilling is conducted in thegreater understanding of the coveredProgram 1: Drilling technologiesvicinity of existing deposits (brownfieldssearch space and ultimately to discovery. exploration) and in drilling-out knownDiscovery in areas of previously unknownProgram 1 will extend the capability of deposits (to constrain their distributiongeology will de-risk exploration, whichCoiled Tubing (CT) drilling so that it can in order that a mine can be planned),will encourage further investment anddrill deeper, is steerable and delivers the and this figure is rising, up from 62% ininterest, thus promoting a virtuous cyclehighest quality sampling. Coiled tubing just the last 11 years. Only 30% of metrescapable of breaking Australia out of itstechnology promises drilling at 1/5th the drilled are conducted in explorationmineral exploration malaise. cost of conventional diamond drilling remote from known deposits (greenfieldsand thus has the potential to drive a exploration), including in areas of deepThe Mineral Exploration Cooperativerevolution in mineral exploration whilst cover. This trend toward less explorationResearch Centre (MinEx CRC) wasdelivering significant health, safety and drilling is particularly concerning becauseestablished in 2018 under the Australianenvironmental benefits. Drilling tasks that of the positive long-term correlationGovernments CRC Programme. Theare more suited to conventional drilling between drilling and mineral discovery.Cooperative Research Centres (CRC)will also be tackled by the MinEx CRC, Under cover, mineral deposits cannot beProgramme supports industry-leddeveloping technologies for optimising discovered without drilling and, whencollaborations between industry,the performance and increasing the discovered, deposits cannot be broughtresearchers and the community. Asproductivity of Reverse Circulation (RC) into production without further drilling. of February 2019, there are 34 CRCs,and diamond drilling techniques.all of which address major challenges Australias declining share of explorationthat require medium to long-termProject 1 aims to improve drilling spend, drilling and discovery put at riskcollaborative efforts. optimisation and automation by (a) our future as a mining country. In theengineering modelling of various absence of significant, new discoveries,The MinEx CRC aims to: processes involved in drilling operation, progressively lower grade material is(b) systematic and reliable recording mined from deposits. Average minedimprove the competitiveness,of drilling data, which can be used grades (amount of metal per tonne of rock)productivity and sustainability ofdirectly for real-time and post-mortem in Australia have halved over the last 30Australian industries, especially whereoptimisation, (c) developing engineering years for gold and 20 years for copper.Australia has a competitive strengthalgorithms that can be used for This has been the key factor in the reducedand in line with government priorities. optimisation of the drilling operation and AUGUST 2019 PREVIEW 30'