Australia and the north is a land rich in mineral resources. These resources have supported Australia's resilient economy for the last century, but over the last decade resource discovery has not kept pace with extraction and our share of international exploration expenditure has been in decline. The minerals component of the Exploring for the Future program aims to contribute to reversing this trend through new data acquisition and geoscience knowledge to support mineral exploration and boost resource discovery rates.
It is estimated that around 80 per cent of Australia's subsurface is largely under-explored, particularly in northern Australia. Given that lead times from discovery to mining can exceed 20 years, there is a need to accelerate discovery rates to provide a longer term pipeline of mineable resources. To this end, the Exploring for the Future program will help to reduce the technical risk of exploration by providing pre-competitive data and knowledge, paving the way for new projects in the north to sustain Australia's economic prosperity.
The challenge of exploring through cover and attracting exploration to frontier, or greenfield regions, is the focus of the Council of Australian Government (COAG) National Mineral Exploration Strategy and the national UNCOVER initiative. The minerals component of the Exploring for the Future program is the first step to implementing priorities for pre-competitive geoscience data collection and knowledge generation set out by industry in the first UNCOVER Roadmap.
Our main aim is to characterize the geology of the northern part of the Australian tectonic plate from the surface down to its base through a multidisciplinary approach of data collection and synthesis, in order to unravel the fingerprints of ore-forming systems, which transect these scales.
The minerals activities are directed towards a north Australia-wide coverage of new datasets. In order to showcase the value of these datasets, an area spanning between Tennant Creek and Mount Isa has been selected to carry out focused integrated studies for mineral potential assessments. These assessments will focus on copper, gold, lead, zinc, uranium and involve additional geoscientific data acquisition and knowledge generation.
To complement data acquisition activities, multiple innovative tools, platforms and workflows are being developed in collaboration with world-leading research from Australian universities. All of these efforts are being undertaken in close consultation and collaboration with teams involved in the energy and groundwater components of the Exploring for the Future program.