THE ADVENTURES of Indiana Jones have nothing on Queensland’s current crop of intrepid explorers, who are venturing to the far ends of the state’s north and north-west to discover the critical minerals needed to lower world carbon emissions.
Queensland Exploration Council (QEC) chair Kim Wainwright said Queensland has vast potential to provide the critical minerals and rare earths needed to manufacture everyday items such as smart phones and renewable energy products such as wind turbines, electric cars, solar panels and batteries.
Ms Wainwright will tell industry leaders, researchers and regulators at the QEC’s annual forum in Brisbane on Friday (February 19) the world urgently needs new discoveries of minerals such as copper, gold, vanadium, bauxite, silver, lead, zinc, indium, cobalt and coal to support the development of renewable energy technologies.
She said ABS figures show more than $640 million was spent in Queensland on mineral and gas exploration in 2019-20, with mineral exploration expenditure alone hitting a seven-year high in the September 2020 quarter to reach $101 million.
“The QEC expects the next ABS data release on March 1 to confirm a further increase in overall exploration expenditure in Queensland in 2020-21, so it looks like this upward trend will continue,” Ms Wainwright said.
Ms Wainwright said most exploration expenditure in the past year has been in coal and base metals such as gold and copper, particularly in the Central Queensland region.
“Central Queensland is the beating heart of the Queensland resources sector and is where our largest and most valuable coalfields are located,” she said.
“We also have large gas resources, some that already overlap our coal operations and others such as in the Galilee Basin that are still being tested but show positive signs of future development.”
The State Government is well aware of the emergence of Queensland as a global supplier of critical minerals, committing $29 million in the 2020-21 budget towards Collaborative Exploration Initiative (CEI) grants and COVID-19 support measures such as rent relief for land under exploration.
This includes $9 million to support critical minerals discovery in the North West Minerals Province and an expansion of the CEI to include a broader range of regions.
“The latest CEI grant round received almost 150 applications, with 20 companies awarded an exploration support grant of up to $200,000 each,” Ms Wainwright said.
“This is the largest CEI round to date and reflects how eager explorers are to get on the ground and make that next significant discovery.
“Critical minerals are just what the name suggests -- they are critical to defence, battery and energy storage and overall cutting-edge technology,” Ms Wainwright said.
“What also makes them critical is not every mineral jurisdiction has them, and they can be very difficult to extract and process economically.
“What is unique about Queensland is that we have significant deposits of a whole range of critical minerals available, as well as the local expertise and experience to meet the challenge of providing these minerals to the world.”
This year’s QEC exploration forum will feature presentations by four CEI grant recipients - Vecco Group, Aeon Metals, Red River Resources and Dover Castle Metals – who will share early, and what looks like promising, exploration results. Under the terms of the grant, recipients are required to share all results and data publicly to support the industry’s continuing development.
CEI grant recipient details:
Dover Castle Metals - funding used to explore for silver, lead and zinc and potentially one of the highest grades of indium in Australia using diamond drilling techniques on land about150km west of Cairns.
Red River Resources - funding used to undertake low-impact magnetic surveys using drones on land about 100km south west of Cairns to look for silver, lead, zinc and indium deposits.
Aeon Metals - funding used to explore for deep iron oxide, copper and gold in an area about 100km west of Mount Isa.
Vecco Group - funding used to re-analyse drill core samples to investigate if there are any new economy minerals north of Julia Creek
To register for this Friday’s QEC “Exploration Initiatives for the Future” forum click here.