Introduction

Geoscience Australia and its predecessors have prepared annual assessments of Australia's mineral resources since 1975. The resource data and related information from Australia's Identified Mineral Resources provide input into Australian Government policy decisions and programs associated with the minerals sector and sustainable development of resources.

Australia's Identified Mineral Resources 2012 presents estimates of Australia's mineral resources at end of December 2011 for all major and several minor mineral commodities (Table 1). This national minerals inventory is based on published company reports of Ore Reserves and Mineral Resources. The national resource estimates provide a long-term view of what is likely to be mined. National total for the Joint Ore Reserve Committee (JORC) Code Ore Reserves are compiled for each commodity, which provides the industry view of what is likely to be mined in the short to medium term. Mine production data are based on figures from the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics. World rankings of Australia's mineral resources have been calculated mainly from information in publications of the United States Geological Survey. A summary of significant industry developments also is presented.

National Resource Classification System

The mineral resource classification system used for Australia's national inventory is based on two general criteria:

  1. the geological certainty of the existence of the mineral resource, and
  2. the economic feasibility of its extraction over the long term.

For a full description of the system see Appendix 2 ‘National Classification System for Identified Mineral Resources'.

The description of the National Classification System shows how mineral resources reported by companies under the Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves (referred to as the JORC Code) are used when compiling national total resources. The classification category Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) is used for national totals of economic resources and provides a basis for meaningful comparisons of Australia's economic resources with those of other nations. Long-term trends in EDR for bauxite, black coal (recoverable), iron ore, gold, copper, lead, zinc, nickel, mineral sands and uranium (recoverable) are presented in Figure 1 and the reasons for significant changes in resource trends are noted.

Accessible Resources

Some mineral deposits are not accessible for mining currently because of government policies or various environmental and land access restrictions such as location within National and State parks and conservation zones, military training areas or environmental protection areas, as well as areas over which mining approval has not been granted by traditional owners. Accessible Economic Demonstrated Resources (AEDR), as shown in Table 1, represent the resources within the EDR category that are accessible for mining.

Table 1. Australia's resources of major minerals and world figures as at December 2011.
Commodity Units Australia World
JORC Reserves (a)
(% of Accessible EDR)
Demonstrated Resources Inferred
Resources (c)
Accessible
EDR (d)
Mine
Production
2011 (e)
Economic
Resources
2011 (f)
Mine
production
2011 (g)
Economic (EDR) (b) Subeconomic
Para-marginal Sub-marginal
Antimony kt Sb 52 (50%) 106 9 0 204 106 1.6 1800 169
Bauxite Mt 1895 (33%) 5665
625
1430 1120
5665
69.98 29 000 223
Black coal
in situ Mt   71 146 1 374 5 345 79 013
recoverable Mt 19 225(38%) 57 538 822 3 986 57 305 50 656 461(h) 665 000(i) 6 185(i)(j)
Brown coal
in situ Mt   49 135 37 465 16 873 121 198
recoverable Mt n.a.(k)
44 219 33 402 15 185 100 664 34 150 66.73(l) 195 000(i) 1044(m)
Cobalt kt Co 422 (35%) 1204 237 101 1219 1204 3.85(n) 7334 98.35
Copper Mt Cu 24.2 (28%) 86.7 1.8 0.6 43.9 86.7 0.96 690 16.1
Chromium kt Cr 0 0 0 0 3450 0 66.1(o) >147 700 (p)
Diamond Mc 150.7 (55%) 272.5
0 0 43.5
272.5 7.6 600(q) 141
Fluorine Mt F 0 0 0.5 0 0.4 0 0 117(r) 3.02
Gold t Au 4131 (45%) 9153 487 135 4513 9112 258 52 740 2700
Iron
iron ore Mt 15 032 (40%) 37 762 1414 1507 61 489 37 762 488 168 762 2814
iron (contained Fe) Mt Fe
7804 (43%) 18 152 501 736 29 204 18 152 n.a. 81 101 n.a.
Lead Mt Pb 12.4 (35%) 35.9 3.4 0.2 22.2 35.9 0.62 92 4.6
Lithium kt Li 506 (50%) 1006 0 0.1 131 1006 11.7(s) 13 036 34(r)
Magnesite Mt MgCO3 37.5 (11%) 330 22 35 836 330 0.644(t) 8750 20.65(r)
Manganese ore Mt 143 (72%) 197 23 167 313 197 6.96
1646 41
Mineral sands
Ilmenite Mt 41.7 (27%) 188.9 30.3 0.03 182.1 156.0 1.277 1235.48 10.98
Rutile Mt 6.4 (27%) 27.2 0.5 0.06 40.2 23.9 0.474 51.28 0.77(r)
Zircon Mt 13.8 (34%) 46.6 1.2 0.07 62.1 40.2 0.762 93.98 1.45
Molybdenum kt Mo 0 167 1220 0.5 562 167 0 10 100 250
Nickel Mt Ni 7.04 (35%) 20.4 3.5 0.6 18.4 20.4 0.215 76.0 1.81
Niobium kt Nb 115 (56%)
205 82
0 418 205 (u) 3000 63
Phosphate  
phosphate rock(v) Mt 280 (30%) 945 445 0 1813 945 (w) 71 000 191
contained P2O5 Mt 45 (31%) 148 61 0 282 148 n.a. n.a. n.a.
PGE (Pt, Pd, Os, Ir, Ru, Rh) t metal 0.01 (25%) 4.7 135.3 35.3 148.2 0.4 0.441 66 000 207
Potash Mt K2O  0  0 13.2  0 11.4 0 0 9500 37
Rare earths (REO & Y2O3) Mt 0.64 (31%) 2.07 0.41 34.48 25.00 2.07 0 114 0.13
Shale oil GL 0 0 213 2074 1272(x) 0 0 763 139(i) 1.165(i)
Silver kt Ag 27.8 (32%) 87.9 2.9 0.6 39.9 87.9 1.73 549 23.6
Tantalum kt Ta 29 (47%) 62
18 0.2 29 62 (y) 131 0.79
Thorium kt Th 0 0 74.4(z) 0 404.9(z) 0 0 n.a. n.a.
Tin kt Sn 119 (49%) 243 65
32
231 243 5.0(aa)
4863 250
Tungsten kt W 182 (48%) 376 11.1 1.4 107 376
0.015 3300 72
Uranium kt U 349 (32%) 1196 33 0 589 1082
5.967 3491(ab) 54.610(ac)
Vanadium kt V 1230 (81%) 1519 10 324 1713 10 544 1519 0 15 000 62
Zinc Mt Zn 22.8 (33%) 68.3 1.0 0.8 27.0 68.3 1.51 262 12.5

Abbreviations

t = tonne; L = litre; kt = kilotonnes (1000 t); Mt = million tonnes (1000 000 t); Mc = million carats (1000 000 c);
GL = gigalitre (1000 000 000 L); n.a. = not available.

Notes

  1. Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) Proved and Probable Ore Reserves as stated in company annual reports and reports to Australian Securities Exchange.
  2. Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) includes Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) Reserves, Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources.
  3. Total Inferred Resources in economic, subeconomic and undifferentiated categories.
  4. Accessible Economic Demonstrated Resources (AEDR) is the portion of total EDR that is accessible for mining. AEDR does not include resources that are inaccessible for mining because of environmental restrictions, government policies or military lands.
  5. Source: Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE).
  6. Sources: Geoscience Australia for Australian figures, United States Geological Survey (USGS) Mineral Commodities Summaries for other countries.
  7. World mine production for 2010, mostly United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates.
  8. Raw coal.
  9. Source: World Energy Council (WEC). Survey of Energy Resources 2010.
  10. Saleable coal.
  11. There are no JORC code ore reserve estimates available for brown coal.
  12. Source: Victoria's Minerals, Petroleum & Extractive Industries 2010-11 Statistical Review. Victorian Department of Primary Industries.
  13. Source: World Coal Association.
  14. Source: Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum.
  15. 96 573 t of chromite expressed as Cr2O3 (Source: Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum).
  16. World production of 23 Mt of ‘marketable chromite ore' as reported by United States Geological Survey (USGS).
  17. Source: USGS Commodity Summaries 2012. Note - world resource figures are for industrial diamonds only. No data provided for resources of gem diamonds.
  18. Excludes USA.
  19. Calculated assuming a grade of 6% Li2O in spodumene concentrates.
  20. Production for 2010-11 (Source: Queensland Government. Department of Natural Resources and Mines).
  21. Not reported by mining companies.
  22. Phosphate rock is reported as economic at grades ranging from 8.7% to 30.2% P2O5.
  23. Phosphate Hill (Queensland) produced 2.49 Mt of phosphate rock in 2011. Christmas Island produced 604 569 t of phosphate rock and 62 410 t of phosphate dust in 2011.
  24. Total Inferred Resource excludes a ‘total potential' shale oil resource of the Toolebuc Formation, Queensland of 245 000 GL that was estimated by Geoscience Australia's predecessor, the Bureau of Mineral Resources, and CSIRO in 1983.
  25. Galaxy Resources produced 0.465 kt of tantalum concentrate averaging 3.3% Ta2O5 at Mount Cattlin deposit.
  26. Thorium resources reduced by 10 per cent to account for mining and processing losses.
  27. For all States except WA where actual figures not available.
  28. Source: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development/Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (2011). Compiled from the most recent data for resources recoverable at costs of less than US$130/kg U.
  29. Source: World Nuclear Association.