Minerals beneath the sea - the first map

10 August 2006

Mining companies interested in broadening their horizons beyond the traditional pit and shaft now have a map to point them to a whole new seabed frontier.

It's the Australian Offshore Mineral Locations map which was launched today by the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, the Hon Ian Macfarlane, MP, and the Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop, MP. The new map shows where minerals are forming within Australia's 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone and extended continental shelf, and provides information on the locations of manganese nodules and crusts, shellsand, construction aggregate, heavy mineral sand, phosphorites, diamonds, tin, copper, gold and coal.

"This visionary 1:10,000,000 scale map provides a spatial understanding of the sites where minerals of economic interest are forming on the ocean floor and is the first overview of mineral values and their potential in areas surrounding the continent," said Dr James Johnson, Chief of Geoscience Australia's Minerals Division.

The map is the result of an intensive process of data acquisition, compilation and analysis by Geoscience Australia in collaboration with CSIRO's Wealth from Oceans national research Flagship and division of Exploration and Mining and state and territory agencies.

"The project aimed to identify the known sites within Australia's jurisdiction where minerals are forming or being concentrated on the ocean floor, and highlights recent exploration activity such as the search for marine diamonds in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf in State and Commonwealth waters off Western Australia," said Dr Bill McKay who leads Geoscience Australia's Mineral Resources and Advice team.

Dr McKay said the map's striking bathymetry, showing the variable topography of the seafloor, made it possible to identify mineralisation features which could have significant importance for mineral exploration. This includes manganese crusts and nodules on the East Tasman Plateau and South Tasman Rise, and shellsand occurrences and cobalt crusts on the edge of the Ceduna Terrace where it descends to the South Australian Abyssal Plain.

"Although the map provides opportunities for investigation, it is important to understand that the mineral locations shown on it are almost all occurrences and not mineral deposits," said Dr McKay. "A good example of the importance of and sustainable approach to seabed mining is commercial shellsand dredging south west of Fremantle. Shellsand is used to produce much of Western Australia's lime and cement while the dredging of shellsand in this area actually creates important shipping channels for the Port of Fremantle."

The Australian Offshore Mineral Locations map can be viewed online by using Geoscience Australia's Australian Marine Spatial Information System. Copies of the map are available from Geoscience Australia's Sales Centre.

Topic contact: media@ga.gov.au Last updated: October 4, 2013