Australia’s mining industry is celebrating the federal government’s commitment to support the hunt for new mineral bodies as the nation competes with China and Indonesia in the critical minerals arena.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced today that the next federal budget will include a $566.1 million investment over 10 years starting in 2024-25 to provide data, maps and other tools for the resources industry to facilitate new discoveries.

Under-explored resources

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) was among the first to welcome the government’s commitment to enhance geoscientific research nationwide.

MCA chief executive officer Tania Constable noted that over 80% of Australia remains under-explored, particularly at greater depths.

“The government’s initiative to create the first comprehensive map of Australia’s subsurface and seabed resources will uncover new opportunities for mineral development, especially in remote and underexplored areas,” Ms Constable said.

She added that the availability of enriched pre-competitive data allows for better planning and sequencing of future private investments in the mineral mining and processing industry, along with the infrastructure needed to support their development.

“Such data is crucial for maximising the economic returns from Australia’s rich mineral endowments.”

“Pre-competitive geoscience data and analysis supported 3.5% of Australia’s GDP in 2021, equating to about $76 billion.”

“The next generation of discoveries in minerals, energy and groundwater will not only bolster Australia’s pathway to net zero but will also attract substantial investment, create jobs and secure essential resources for our future.”

Greater clarity

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) of Western Australia has also expressed strong support for the funding plan.

CME chief executive Rebecca Tomkinson stated that the investment in Geoscience Australia under the Future Made in Australia policy would leverage geoscientific data and ensure projects have greater clarity for investment and initiation.

“This initiative means companies can understand where critical resource seams are located and how they interact with the needs of other important onshore and offshore projects,” Ms Tomkinson said.

“Having publicly available information is critical to ensuring there is a common understanding of the locations of resources so that future development can balance land interests and values across environmental protection, agriculture, electricity generation, transmission infrastructure, social needs and large-scale renewable energy projects.”

Appropriate policy needed

However, a CME spokesperson warned that discovering more deposits is futile if there are unviable constraints on their development.

“It’s important that this investment in scientific data is supported by appropriate industry policy to ensure Australians can benefit from the immense opportunity lying below the surface,” the spokesperson said.

“Exploration is the foundation of the resource development pipeline and the development of those resources is imperative to the industry’s ongoing contribution to the state and federal economies, employment, services and social infrastructure.”

“The state and federal budgets reflect this priority.”

Clean energy leader

Prime Minister Albanese stated that no nation is better-positioned than Australia to achieve the global goal of transitioning to a clean energy future.

“This investment underscores my government’s commitment to building a secure and sustainable future for all Australians.”

“By investing significantly in geoscience, we can accelerate our progress towards net zero.”

Federal Minister for Resources Madeleine King reaffirmed that the global journey to net zero is dependent on Australia’s resources sector.

“This funding will allow us to provide the necessary resources for our companies to locate the minerals essential for driving our economy and developing the technology needed to reduce emissions.”

“The Albanese government has placed the resources industry at the core of its policymaking because it recognises that a strong resources sector signifies a strong Australia.”

“Geoscience Australia is a world-leading scientific institution that all Australians should be proud of and this funding represents an unprecedented investment in our geoscience capabilities.”