Geoscientists want deep backing
Geoscientists say they need political support to dig deeper and access Australia’s next generation of mineral deposits.
The peak body for Australia’s 8,000 geoscientists - the Australian Geoscience Council (AGC) – says bipartisanship is needed to support for new exploration.
While Australia is endowed with massive mineral resources, geoscientists say a lot of the ʻeasy to findʼ minerals of past decades have largely been discovered and exploited.
There is now a need to explore much deeper underground for the nationʼs new ʻhiddenʼ mineral fields, which will require new exploration approaches, new technologies, and extremely accurate data collection and modelling.
All of that will require investment.
“If Australia is to benefit from the huge demand for the minerals supporting sustainable technologies - copper, cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite and the rare earth metals needed for solar panels, electric vehicles and the batteries they need for storing renewable energy - significant investment will be required in new technologies and approaches to uncover ʻharder to findʼ minerals,” said AGC President, Dr Bill Shaw, this week.
“The Australian Geoscience Council has been actively involved in the UNCOVER initiative and Decadal Plan for Geoscience - two initiatives of the Australian Academy of Science that have brought together government Geoscience agencies, industry, academia and research bodies in a unique collaboration to initiate and fast-track much-needed Geoscience research, data collection and new technologies to find and better exploit ʻhiddenʼ mineral deposits deep under the Earthʼs surface.”
The AGC says there are some signs that politicians are listening, with both the Coalition Government and the Australian Labor Party announcing they will significantly invest in long-term plans for minerals exploration in Australia.
“The Australian Geoscience Council notes that the Coalition has just released a National Resources Statement outlining how it will attract investment, develop new resources and markets, and share the benefits of success with more regional communities,” Dr Shaw said.
“Similarly, we welcome the Australian Labor Partyʼs announcement of their Future Mines and Jobs plan that will kick-start the discovery of new mines across the country. It will also establish an Australian Future Mines Centre to co-ordinate exploration work and lead the scientific research and development necessary to explore under deep cover.”
Labor says the proposed Centre will be funded through a $23 million Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, with input from the Australian Academy of Science and the sector.
The Opposition has also promised to encourage industry co-funding as part of the Centreʼs work, and will also invest $2 million to provide 100 scholarships to arrest the decline in mining engineering degree commencements.
“The years of easy exploration and extraction are largely over. The road ahead is going to require more innovation and substantial lead-times in discovering and developing the resources that Australia and the world needs. These must be found and extracted safely, cleanly and efficiently if we are to continue to support and maintain the community values that we expect in Australia,” Dr Shaw said.
“Recognition by the major parties of these realities – and their understanding that the resources sector remains essential to Australiaʼs future prosperity, standard of living and resource security – is greatly welcomed in the lead-up to the next federal election and beyond.”
“We look forward to working with all politicians to help put their commitments into action.”