Australia and in particular northern Australia is a region 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 has contributed to reversing this trend through new data acquisition and geoscience knowledge to support mineral exploration and boost resource discovery rates.
Approximately 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, the data and information released through this program has accelerated discovery rates to provide a longer term pipeline of mineable resources. Geoscientific data, information and knowledge from the Exploring for the Future program has reduced the technical risk of exploration by providing free, good quality pre-competitive data and published scientific information.
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 an important step in implementing priorities for pre-competitive geoscience data collection and knowledge generation set out by industry in the first UNCOVER Roadmap.
Exploring for the Future set out to characterize the geology of the northern part of the Australian tectonic plate from the surface down to over 250 km in regions using a multidisciplinary approach of precompetitive data and synthesis, in order to unravel the fingerprints of ore-forming systems, which transect these scales.
Minerals activities focused on a north Australia-wide coverage of new innovative complimentary geoscientific datasets. In order to showcase the value of these new geoscientific datasets, an area spanning between Tennant Creek and Mount Isa was defined to carry out focused integrated studies for mineral potential assessments, particuarly for copper gold, lead, zinc, uranium.
Complementing data acquisition activities, multiple innovative tools, platforms and workflows were developed in collaboration with world-leading research from Australian universities. All of these efforts were undertaken in close consultation and collaboration with teams involved in the energy and groundwater components of the Exploring for the Future program.