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Australia’s Identified Mineral Resources

Australia’s Identified Mineral Resources

The National Classification System for Identified Mineral Resources has been used by the Australian Government since 1975 for classifying mineral resources for regional and national assessments. It provides a long-term view on what is likely to be available for mining.

The National Classification System uses two general criteria for classifying Australia’s national inventory of mineral resources:

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

The National Classification System (See Appendix 2) uses reports on mineral resources published by companies using the JORC Code (or equivalent foreign codes) and, to a lesser extent, confidential information, to compile national totals for the resource classification categories set out in Table 3. Both the National Classification System and the JORC Code are based on the McKelvey resource classification system used by the USGS. Thus Australia’s national system is compatible with the JORC Code and remains comparable to the USGS system, as published in the annual USGS Mineral Commodity Summaries.

Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) is the category used for the national totals of economic resources and provides a basis for meaningful comparisons of Australia’s economic resources with those of other nations. The Commodity Summaries section provides a snapshot of key facts and figures for the 35 mineral commodities covered in AIMR 2021, including EDR, Ore Reserves, production, rises and falls and world rankings.

Estimating the total amount of each mineral commodity likely to be available for mining over the long term (EDR) is not a precise science. The long-term perspectives presented herein take account of the following:

  • Ore Reserves reported in compliance with the JORC Code (or equivalent foreign codes) will all be mined, but they only provide a short-term view on what is likely to be available for mining.
  • Most current Measured and Indicated Resources reported in compliance with the JORC Code are also likely to be mined.
  • Some current Inferred Resources will be transferred to Measured and Indicated Resources and Ore Reserves.
  • New discoveries will add to the resource inventory.

In addition, some resources that, all being equal, would normally be considered EDR are not accessible because of environmental, legal or military land-use restrictions. Thus Table 3 also lists Accessible Economic Demonstrated Resources (AEDR). Of the 35 mineral commodities assessed in this publication, only black coal, brown coal, gold, mineral sands, platinum group elements and uranium have EDR that is considered inaccessible.

Over time, all of Australia’s current EDR of gold, silver, tin, zinc or any number of other commodities will be mined. At first glance, this statement might seem somewhat paradoxical because not every deposit that contributes to the national EDR will have all of that individual EDR brought into production. Indeed, some deposits currently contributing to EDR will never produce any metal. However, the National Classification System is not designed to be used for individual mine assessments. Instead, it is a way of estimating regional and national totals. So, from an aggregated point of view, it is a reasonable proposition that, eventually, all of the current EDR (and more) will be mined. Twenty years ago, gold for example, had an EDR of 4,959 t; since 2000, Australian mines have produced 5,710 t of gold.

Australia is yet to run out of EDR because, to use JORC Code terminology, as individual Ore Reserves are depleted, Measured and Indicated Resources are reassessed into Proved and Probable categories, Inferred Resources are worked on to bring them to Measured and Indicated status and new drilling at existing mines as well as new greenfield discoveries add to the resource inventory. In addition, extractive technologies improve over time and if a commodity becomes rare then the laws of supply and demand result in previously subeconomic deposits becoming profitable. Thus EDR fundamentally differs from Ore Reserves under the JORC Code because it is not meant to provide a picture of what is currently commercial to mine but rather an outlook on what is likely to be available for mining over the long term, i.e., of opportunity for supply at regional and national scales.

Table 3. Australia's Identified Mineral Resources as at December 2020.

Commodity Unit Australia World
Demonstrated Resources Inferred Resources2 Accessible EDR3 Mine Production4 Economic Resources5 Mine Production6
Economic (EDR)1 Subeconomic
Paramarginal Submarginal
Antimony kt Sb 125.2 8.8 0 47.1 125.2 3.97 1,800 155
Bauxite Mt 5,132 30 1,429 3,174 5,132 103.6 29,700 365
Black Coal
In situ Mt 87,645 2,475 4,314 107,072        
Recoverable Mt 74,147 1,907 3,120 84,156 73,707 5428 753,6399 7,103 10
Brown Coal
In situ Mt 81,234 45,696 239,225 122,509        
Recoverable Mt 74,039 42,082 215,303 105,228 72,453 41.511 320,46912 63813
Chromium kt Cr 0 302 0 6584 0 0 570,00014 40,00014
Cobalt kt Co 1,495 250 5 1,214 1,495 5.615 7,200 135
Copper Mt Cu 96.65 1.52 0.25 43.24 96.65 0.88 880 20.2
Diamond Mc 10.97 0 0 20.30 10.97 9.9816 1,40017 52
Fluorine kt F 343 721 6 2,543 343 0 153,000 3,60018
Gold t Au 11,101 174 63 6,401 11,074 328 55,000 3,250
Graphite Mt 7.97 0.10 0 7.32 7.97 0 332 1.1
Iron ore Mt 51,709 5,481 1,280 80,184 51,709 922 177,000 2,400
Contained iron Mt Fe 27,553 1,781 426 40,549 27,553 571 87,000 1,500
Lead Mt Pb 35.73 1.32 0.14 25.13 37.31 0.49 87.39 4.4
Lithium kt Li 6,174 0 <1 1,751 6,174 4019 22,500 82
Magnesite Mt MgCO3 286 75 35 999 286 0.820 7,500 2621
Manganese Ore Mt 276 3 190 388 276 4.822 1,21823 17.223
Mineral Sands
Ilmenite Mt 274.0 16.3 10.9 252.4 264.1 1.124 1,174 12
Rutile Mt 35.3 0.1 3.1 35.9 32.7 0.224 52 1
Zircon Mt 79.3 0.3 4.7 57.4 76.7 0.424 107 2
Molybdenum kt Mo 403 366 <1 1,293 403 0 18,000 300
Nickel Mt Ni 21.4 2.4 <1 19.7 21.4 0.17 95 2.5
Niobium kt Nb 216 15 0 397 216 n.a.25 >17,000 78
PGE t metal 107.0 115.0 0 116.6 107.0 0.52226 69,400 38027
Phosphate rock28 Mt 1,081 498 0 2,364 1,081 1.329 70,600 222
Contained P2O5 Mt P2O5 178 91 0 388 178 n.a. n.a. n.a.
Recoverable Mt K2O 42.5 1.6 0 147.1 42.5 0 >3,700 43,200
In situ Mt K2O 42.5 260.6 0 1073.4 42.5 0 n.a. n.a.
Rare Earths30 Mt oxide 4.20 4.24 34.74 23.49 4.20 0.02031 116 0.24
Scandium kt Sc 30.34 12.04 0.00 13.31 30.34 0 n.a. n.a.
Silver kt Ag 92.50 1.82 0.48 44.52 92.50 1.34 500 25.0
Tantalum kt Ta 99.4 1.4 0.2 37.5 99.4 0.132 >140 1.8
Thorium kt Th 0 0 637 628 0 0 n.a. n.a.
Tin kt Sn 574 63 32 290 574 8.1 4,500 294
Tungsten kt W 577 0 5 222 577 <133 3,400 84
Uranium kt U 1,239 52 27 642 1,236 6.195 379234 47.735
Vanadium kt V 7,408 121 1376 17,254 7,408 0 25,600 86
Zinc Mt Zn 66.41 0.44 0.75 47.24 66.41 1.31 252 12

t = tonne; kt = kilotonnes (1,000 t); Mt = million tonnes (1,000,000 t); Mc = million carats (1,000,000 carats); GL = gigalitre (1,000,000,000 L); n.a. = not available; PGE = platinum group elements (platinum, palladium, osmium, iridium, ruthenium, rhodium).
Where an element symbol follows the unit it refers to contained metal content.


1. Economic Demonstrated Resources (EDR) predominantly comprise Ore Reserves and most Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources that have been reported in compliance with the Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) Code to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). In addition, some reserves and resources have been reported using other reporting codes to foreign stock exchanges and Geoscience Australia may hold confidential data for some commodities.

2. Total Inferred Resources in economic, subeconomic and undifferentiated categories.

3. 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.

4. Australian mine production from Resources and Energy Quarterly, December 2021 published by the Office of the Chief Economist, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources unless otherwise stated. Production data often have a higher level of certainty than reserve and resource estimates and, thus, may be presented with more significant figures.

5. World economic resources from Mineral Commodity Summaries 2021 published by the USGS and adjusted with Geoscience Australia data, unless otherwise stated.

6. World production from Mineral Commodity Summaries 2021 published by the USGS and adjusted with Geoscience Australia data, unless otherwise stated.

7. Australian antimony production from company reports (Mandalay Resources Ltd).

8. Australian black coal production refers to raw coal.

9. World economic resources of black coal derived from International Energy Agency, Coal Information 2021 Overview.

10. World mine production of black coal is supplied byInternational Energy Agency, Coal Information 2021 Overview.

11. Australian production of brown coal is supplied by International Energy Agency, Coal Information 2021 Overview.

12. World economic resources of brown coal is supplied by International Energy Agency, Coal Information 2021 Overview.

13. World mine production of brown coal from International Energy Agency (Coal Information 2020 Overview).

14. World economic resources and mine production are presented as chromite ore.

15. Australian cobalt production data from Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Western Australian Government, 2020 Major commodities resources file.

16. Australian diamond production from Rio Tinto annual report 2020.

17. World resource figures are for industrial diamonds only, no data provided for resources of gem diamonds.

18. World mine production of fluorine excludes the USA.

19. Australian lithium production data (tonnes of spodumene concentrates) from Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety Western Australian Government, 2020 Major commodities resources file. Production of Lithium calculated assuming 6% Li2O in spodumene concentrates.

20. The Department of State Development, South Australia (Report Book 2021/00008) reported magnesite production of 5,931 t in 2020.The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines (Queensland Annual Mineral Summary 2020-21) reported magnesite production of 793,272 t in 2020-21.

21. World mine production excludes the USA.

22. Australian manganese production from company reports and total reported production from Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Western Australian Government, 2020 Major commodities resources file.

23. Manganese world economic resources and mine production are presented in the Mineral Commodity Summaries 2020 published by the USGS as manganese content, not manganese ore.

24. Australian mineral sands production from company reports.

25. There are no mines producing niobium as a primary product in Australia. It is likely that niobium is produced as a by-product at some lithium/tantalum operations, but these data have not been reported.

26. Australian platinum and palladium production data from Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Western Australian Government, 2020 Major commodities resources file.

27. World mine production is platinum and palladium only.

28. Phosphate rock is reported as being economic at grades ranging from 8.7% to 30.2% P2O5.

29. Geoscience Australia estimate based on reported mining production from Christmas Island – 353,186 t in 2020,  South Australia – 2,284 t in 2020 (South Australia Department for Energy and Mining, Report Book 2021/00008) and Queensland – 933,248 t in 2019–20 (Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines, Queensland Annual Mineral Summary 2019–20).

30. Rare earths comprise rare earth oxides (REO) and yttrium oxide (Y2O3).

31. Rare earths production is based on Western Australian production of concentrates from Mount Weld (14,564 t) and from zircon- monazite concentrate produced at Eneabba (44,000 t). Assuming 20% of concentrate is monazite and 60% of monazite is REO (5,280 t).

32. Australian tantalum production data from Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Western Australian Government, 2020 Major commodities resources file. Production represents a maximum as no correction has been made for actual tantalite concentration in reported concentrates.

33. Tungsten production from company correspondence (Tasmania Mines Pty Ltd) and company reports.

34. World economic resources from the International Atomic Energy Agency estimate for Reasonably Assured Resources recoverable at costs of less than US$130/kg U published in Uranium 2020: Resources, Production and Demand (the Red Book).

35. World production of uranium in 2020 from World Nuclear Organisation (World Uranium Mining Production, September 2021 update).

Geographical distribution of EDR

Most bauxite EDR are attributable to Queensland and Western Australia (Figure 2) where the giant deposits in Cape York and the Darling Range, respectively, dominate. Similarly, Australia’s enormous iron ore EDR are geographically concentrated in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Western Australia also holds almost all of nickel and diamond EDR, though the latter is mostly attributable to the Argyle mine which closed in November 2020. Manganese ore EDR are found in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. On the other side of the country, almost all black coal EDR are located in Queensland and New South Wales (Figure 2). Gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, uranium and mineral sands are dispersed across the country (Figure 2).