Tag Archives: Geoscience Australia

DIG CT to bring MinEx CRC’s RoXplorer coiled tubing drilling tech to the market

MinEx CRC says has struck a commercialisation deal with DIG CT, a niche Australia-based drilling company set to bring MinEx CRC’s RoXplorer® coiled tubing (CT) drilling technology to market.

The CT drilling platform enables mineral exploration companies to significantly improve their environmental footprint and productivity by meeting the challenges of exploring in deep cover frontier provinces, barely touched in decades of previous exploration, according to MinEx CRC.

Developed in collaboration with industry partners Anglo American, BHP, Epiroc, LKAB Wassara, South32 and the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA), the CT platform can drill through unconsolidated cover and hard-rock formations to depths of 500 m, delivering safety, efficiency, productivity and high-quality sampling with minimal infrastructure and streamlined operating processes.

“The key feature of RoXplorer CT drill rig is the patented mast design and over-the-hole positioning of the coil reel,” MinEx CRC CEO, Andrew Bailey, said.

“This enables increased coil life, seamless transition between CT and conventional top-drive drilling, rapid loading and unloading of tooling and drill string incorporated on the rig for ease of set up, pack down and transport.”

DIG CT Founder and Director, and Global Drilling Specialist, Craig Lavrick, said: “I’m proud to have been involved with the CT rig platform’s development since its inception, for over a decade. I consider coil tubing technology a ‘game changer’ and necessary next generation equipment to elevate exploration drilling to a safer, greener and more productive industry.”

Since August 2021, the CT platform has safely completed over 14,000 m of drilling in collaboration with Geological Survey of South Australia, Geological Survey of Western Australia, Geoscience Australia, Anglo American and EnviroCopper. Drilling trials demonstrate the system’s success and application to real-world, deep cover exploration scenarios while providing cost, productivity, safety and environmental benefits when compared with conventional drilling platforms.

The commercialisation deal between MinEx CRC and DIG CT will see the RoXplorer CT drilling platform offered as a drilling service for hire, with one initial drill rig in operation, with the intent to grow the fleet as mineral explorers recognise the value and utility of the novel CT technology, MinEx CRC says.

In February 2023 MinEx CRC announced a manufacturing deal with rig manufacturer, Schramm – now a subsidiary of the Epiroc group – who are ready to build the new fleet of CT drill rigs as demand increases, according to the organisation.

METS Ignited - IMARC 2022

Critical minerals discussion to continue at IMARC 2023

The announcement by Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, to double the investment in the Critical Minerals Fund sets the scene for this year’s International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Sydney, New South Wales, next week.

The A$4 billion ($2.5 billion) plan is aimed at expanding the production and processing of critical minerals in Australia to secure the country’s position as a global critical minerals powerhouse.

Albanese said Australia is in a strong position to help the global shift to net-zero due to its large deposits of critical minerals.

He said: “Australia is committed to building sustainable and secure critical minerals supply chains with the United States. This is central to building a clean energy future and delivering economic growth. The expansion of the Critical Minerals Facility will help to build supply chains with the United States and support our shared clean energy, manufacturing and defence ambitions.”

Minister for Resources of Australia, Madeleine King, said the road to net-zero runs through Australia’s resources sector.

“The Critical Minerals Facility is a cornerstone of support, providing finance to strategically significant projects which can crowd in private investment,” King said.

“Coupled with our support for processing, we are well positioned to be a world leading provider of critical minerals, including rare earths elements, and to support global efforts on clean energy transformation.”

Australia is fortunate to be home to some of the largest recoverable critical mineral deposits on earth, with abundant reserves of rare minerals including lithium, graphite, cobalt and nickel.

But unlike iron ore and coal, these critical minerals are also found in many other countries, meaning Australia’s traditional competitive advantage no longer comes so easily.

As the world scrambles to secure these resources of the future, this new competitive landscape has spurred an effort to unlock Australia’s potential as a critical mineral powerhouse given its large reserves of rare earth minerals.

Critical minerals are integral to the global clean energy economy and are key components for products such as solar panels, batteries, medical equipment and telecommunications technology. Thankfully, Australia is well-positioned to meet the growing demand for responsibly produced minerals.

Roland Hill from FYI Resources, a producer of critical minerals for the electric vehicle and high-tech appliance industry, notes that despite Australia’s leading position in the critical mineral market, there remains a lot of catching up to do to meet global demand pressures.

He said: “Australia is probably punching above its weight in terms of supply and is therefore boasting some of the largest production of lithium. However, much like the rest of the world, Australia has been caught short a little in terms of the preparedness to address the shortfall in critical minerals supply. We still have a long way to go before we can say we are global leaders in critical minerals, in the same we do for traditional resources.”

The global race to secure critical minerals

One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the vulnerability of supply chains and the concentration of production facilities, particularly in China. As a result, Australia is looking to improve its trade partnerships with other nations such as India, Japan and South Korea to help diversify global supply chains.

Allison Britt, Director of Mineral Resources Advice and Promotion at Geoscience Australia, said nations around the world are looking to ensure stable supply chains for their economic and sovereign security.

“Developing the large-scale mineral supply chains needed for the new energy transition requires new partnerships among like-minded countries in addition to existing trade relationships,” Britt said.

“Australia’s international partnerships, trade agreements, extraordinary geological endowment and objectives to grow production, processing and manufacturing capacity should underpin our own energy transition.”

To help alleviate the supply chain constraint, the Australian Government penned a strategic cooperation agreement with South Korea during diplomatic visit by President, Moon Jae-in, in December 2022. South Korea is a major producer of technologies and materials that require Australian critical minerals, including products with batteries, semiconductors and electric vehicles. The nation is already Australia’s third-largest export destination.

The South Korea-Australia partnership further entrenches South Korea’s standing as an important energy and resources export partner. The agreement also aligns with a call made in October 2021 by the head of the South Korean Government’s new critical minerals planning team, which asked for greater engagement with Australia’s mining and processing capacity.

Australia’s role as a hydrogen gas producer has also not gone unnoticed and has been gaining traction, particularly with South Korean resource companies. Sun Metals, owned by Korea Zinc’s Australian business, Ark Energy, is building a green hydrogen plant in Townsville. Once at capacity, Korea Zinc hopes to ship more than 500,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year from Queensland to Korea to power their factories.

According to Joshua Dellios, Partner at MinterEllison, as the world looks for access to critical minerals, Australia is emerging as a preferred market given the country’s well-established regulatory framework that aims to ensure the sustainable development of its mineral resources while minimising their environmental impacts.

However, these safeguards also raise barriers to investment and exploration that could jeopardise Australia’s attractiveness in an increasingly competitive global market. Australia will have to overcome challenges such as, limited infrastructure, high capital costs, and the need for advanced technologies. This will require collaborative efforts among industry, government, and research institutions, as well as targeted investments in infrastructure development, technological advancements, and streamlined regulations to create a more conducive environment for the growth of the critical minerals sector.

Deliios said: “Navigating the barriers to critical mineral exploration and mining in Australia demands a united front, with industry, government, and research working hand in hand to unlock the potential of this vital sector and propel our nation towards a greener future.”

New technologies key to reaching targets

Given the relative scarcity of critical minerals, companies like Fleet Space Technologies are encouraging the mining and resource sector to reimagine how they search for minerals and embrace technologies from other industries. Hemant Chaurasia, Chief Product Officer at Fleet Space Technologies says there is a lot to learn from the latest advances in the space sector.

“It is clear that mineral exploration is getting harder, as we start to exhaust shallow discoveries and are forced to search deeper into the earth. This demands a much more data-driven approach to exploration,” Chaurasia said.

“Today, using satellites and sensors, geophysical exploration data can be transmitted to the cloud in near real-time from anywhere on earth, shortening the time it takes to create actionable 3D models of the subsurface from months to days.”

With uncertainty remaining around the supply chains of critical minerals, digital technologies are becoming increasingly important assets to mining and production companies. The solutions are allowing organisations to extract greater quantities of resources from existing materials whilst also lowering production and maintenance costs. IFS, a global leader in enterprise software solutions, is assisting the broader industry by helping them optimise supply chains and production and refining processes through its products.

Warren Zietsman, Managing Director of IFS Australia and New Zealand says embracing technology, software, and AI (Artificial Intelligence) is not just a ‘take it or leave it’ for mining organisations; t’s a vital cog in the process to achieving business and sustainability goals.

“By leveraging technologies such as AI, Augmented Reality, Digital Twins and machine learning, mining organisations can effectively manage and maintain the mining of critical minerals, while extending the life of their assets and invariably reducing their carbon footprint,” Zietsman said.

“By taking advantage of the capabilities that intelligent operational planning and simulation tools can provide, organisations can foresee unexpected scenarios to protect a value chain that relies on minimal disruption.”

Critical minerals a key theme at IMARC 2023

The International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Sydney, October 31-November 2, will feature a major focus on the global issues facing the critical mineral sector, and the challenges Australia must overcome to realise the potential to be a global critical minerals powerhouse.

With over 380 technical talks, panel discussions, and strategic keynote presentations across seven concurrent streams, IMARC offers attendees the opportunity to hear from experts across the sector as they look to revolve the varying challenges facing the mining and resource industry as they pivot towards critical minerals. Sessions will include:

• Driving International Supply Chain Collaboration in Critical Minerals;

• Investing and Financing Australia’s Critical Minerals’ Independence;

• The EU’s Critical Raw Material Policy and Initiatives in Europe and with Third Countries; and

• Sustainable Mining for Green Technologies.

International Mining is a media sponsor of IMARC 2023 and will be on site in Sydney

MinEx CRC goes under cover in Australia with National Drilling Initiative

MinEx CRC, reportedly the world’s largest mineral exploration collaboration, has successfully completed its first National Drilling Initiative (NDI) campaigns, including a 10-hole, 4,000 m drilling campaign in the East Tennant area of the Northern Territory of Australia, to assess the mineral potential of basement rocks in the region.

While gold has been mined from the Paleoproterozoic rocks around Tennant Creek since the early 1930s, there has been almost no mineral exploration in the covered rocks to the east of Tennant Creek in the 90 years since, according to MinEx CRC.

“The East Tennant drilling campaign was designed to test stratigraphic and structural interpretations and assess the mineral potential of basement rocks to the east of the Tennant Creek mineral field,” MinEx CRC CEO, Andrew Bailey, said. “These basement rocks are under-explored and concealed by hundreds of metres of younger sedimentary rocks.”

The drilling campaign is part of a world-first scientific drilling program, the NDI, designed to understand the evolution of the Australia continent, provide clues about where to search for new mineral deposits and bring forward the next generation of mineral exploration technology, MinEx CRC says.

Included within the NDI campaign was a 1,750m drill hole (known as NDI Carrara 1) at a location near the Northern Territory/Queensland border, around 250 km northwest of Mount Isa. This hole was designed to capture geological and stratigraphic information from a previously unknown sedimentary basin, and to assess the basin for potential to host energy and mineral resources.

In collaboration with Geoscience Australia and geological survey organisations in every state and territory, the NDI will manage and deliver a seven-year program with multiple drilling campaigns spread across Australia.

Results from the drilling program have uncovered a range of igneous and metasedimentary rocks, enabled a better understanding of the structure and stratigraphy of the area and helped to refine pre-drilling interpretations of the region’s prospectivity, according to the collaborative project.

Drilling has also provided pinning points to constrain cover thickness, with prospective basement typically concealed beneath less than 200 m of Georgina Basin sediments and less than 30 m of Cambrian basalt of the Kalkarindji Suite.

Geoscience Australia’s Chief of Minerals, Energy and Groundwater Division, Dr Andrew Heap, said: “We are proud to be a participant of the MinEx CRC through our Exploring for the Future program, which identified the region as a highly-prospective frontier. The drilling results are confirming this view and will support the continued development of the Barkly Region.

“A range of detailed analyses are planned to comprehensively characterise the drill core, which will provide insights into the geological evolution and mineral systems potential of the region. These results will be released throughout 2021.”

Dr Heap added: “Projects like this reveal the geology underneath the vast sedimentary cover that extends across most of Australia and open up frontier regions for exploration and resource discovery. In the future, the new geological knowledge and methods that we’ve used here can be applied in other similar prospective geological terranes across the country.”

Ian Scrimgeour, Executive Director NT Geological Survey, said the East Tennant NDI drill core provides an exciting opportunity to understand the potential of the underexplored Barkly area.

“The range of ancillary datasets that have been acquired during the drilling campaign, coupled with the ongoing research activities on the drill core, will transform the understanding of minerals systems in the region,” he said.

“NTGS is delighted to provide value-add datasets with the acquisition of hyperspectral data and high-resolution imaging of the drill core through our HyLogger instrument.”

The MinEx Cooperative Research Centre was established to:

  • Develop more productive, safer and environmentally friendly drilling methods to discover and drill-out deposits, including coiled tubing drilling technology;
  • Develop new technologies for collecting data while drilling, bringing forward mine production; and
  • Implement an NDI – a world-first collaboration of geological surveys, researchers and industry that will undertake drilling in under-explored areas of potential mineral wealth in Australia.

Australia extends and expands Exploring for the Future geoscience program

Australia’s government has extended Geoscience Australia’s Exploring for the Future (EFTF) program for a further four years in a move that will support a stronger recovery and more regional jobs across the whole country, according to the Minerals Council of Australia.

The program has been highly successful in collecting pre-competitive geophysical data from the north of the country for use by researchers, explorers and mining companies, while attracting new exploration investment and jobs amid growing international competition from emerging mining regions, the MCA said.

The latest move will see the government invest a further A$125 million ($86 million) to expand the program’s reach to cover the whole of Australia, a statement from Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, read.

It comes on top of the A$100 million previously spent on the program to drive investment, generate jobs and secure the future of the resources sector, Pitt said.

“The EFTF program uses a series of cutting-edge geoscientific techniques to map the geological structures at unprecedented scale and detail,” the statement read. “This freely available information creates a better understanding of our mineral, energy and groundwater systems and allows us to realise Australia’s economic potential.”

Pitt said even though Australia is known for its world-class mineral resources sector, over 80% of Australia is still underexplored.

“Over the past four years, EFTF has worked across northern Australia to deliver world-leading data about the region’s mineral, energy and water resource potential to industry, government and communities,” he said. “We are confident of the long-term impacts of the existing program, with independent analysis of the first half of the program, indicating it could deliver just over A$2.5 billion in economic benefits and jobs in northern Australia.”

He concluded: “The existing program has already demonstrated significant success unlocking Australia’s resource potential in the north that extending it just made sense. This will give industry, investors and the broader community a consistent, nation-wide picture of our natural resource potential.”

Welcoming the investment, Geoscience Australia Chief Executive, Dr James Johnson, said he looked forward to continuing this fundamental support for the resources sector.

“As the nation’s pre-eminent Earth science organisation, Geoscience Australia integrates the most advanced geoscientific methods and data to build an ever-improving understanding of our mineral, energy and groundwater resources for the benefit of all Australians.

“During the first phase of EFTF, we built on that understanding by releasing 200 datasets through a new online portal and developing innovative tools to help explorers assess the economic viability of a resource and make their next big investment decision. We can now develop this as a national resource.”

Exploration investment is the foundation of Australia’s mining industry, which generates A$289 billion in export revenue, directly and indirectly supports 1.1 million jobs and contributes A$39 billion in royalties and taxes to Australian governments, according to the MCA.