Exploring for the Future - a new phase of resource investment in northern Australia

08 December 2016

Exploring for the Future - a new phase of resource investment in northern Australia

Work is underway on the new $100.5 million Exploring for the Future programme. This four-year programme aims to boost Australia's attractiveness as a destination for investment in resource exploration and management. In doing so, it will help safeguard Australia's future economic prosperity.

Geoscience Australia is collaborating with the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australian, and Western Australian governments to undertake these activities.

Australia's wealth of resources

Australia is fortunate to be rich in natural resources, including minerals, energy and groundwater.  These resources are essential for life and the sustainable development of our society. They are also a foundation for the economic successes that our country has enjoyed.  It is therefore vital that we maintain a healthy supply of globally-significant resource discoveries into the future.

Unfortunately Australia's large mineral and conventional oil deposits, many of which were discovered several decades ago, are nearing the end of their economic life. The rate of discovery of new commercially viable world-class deposits that are easy-to-reach has declined over the past 20 years. As a consequence, Australia's reputation as a priority location for investment in exploration activities is diminishing, which has a negative flow-on impact for the industries and communities that rely on that investment. New under-explored areas need to be investigated to reverse this trend.

Renewing investment in northern Australia

As highlighted in the Australian Government's White Paper on Developing northern Australia, this area offers enormous potential for industry development, including being advantageously close to major global markets.

Due to the seasonal nature of surface water and high evaporation rates in northern Australia, groundwater resources and aquifer storage provide significant opportunity to underpin economic expansion. Many mineral and energy deposits occur in remote areas where groundwater is the only secure local water source.  In addition, many regions of northern Australia have soils which are potentially suitable for irrigated agriculture if adequate water was available for development. Therefore, a detailed understanding of the location, size and quality of groundwater resources, and rates of use or depletion, are critical for the sustainable management of this resource.

In order to support renewed investment in northern Australia, the resource potential of under-explored areas needs to be better understood. Exploring for the Future seeks to do that.

A new phase of government supported data acquisition

Geoscience Australia's leading researchers will use innovative techniques to gather new pre-competitive data and information, on an unprecedented scale across Northern Australia, as well as an area in South Australia, about the potential mineral, energy and groundwater resources concealed beneath the surface.

This pre-competitive data and information will be released on an ongoing basis over the four years to support and de-risk resource decision making and investment.  As all the data and information will be publicly available, all parts of the resources sector, as well as the broader research and development community, will have an opportunity to benefit.

Exploring for the Future comprises three integrated components:

  1. The minerals component focuses on understanding the geological evolution of northern Australia and through that, identifying which geological terrains have greater potential for various mineral deposit types.
  2. Energy: The energy component focuses on exploring sedimentary basins to better understand the location and scale of potential oil and gas resources.
  3. Groundwater: The groundwater component focusses on assessing the location, quantity and quality of groundwater, and rates of use or depletion, to identify potential opportunities for irrigated agriculture, mineral and energy development, and community water supply.

Sign up for regular updates on the programme activities and release of data and information by contacting eftf@ga.gov.au.

Further information