Home' Australian Resources and Investment : March 2010 Contents AUSTRALIAN RESOURCES & INVESTMENT • MARCH 2010 • 109
Underpinning the Territory's
new exploration boom
IAN SCRIMGEOUR, DIRECTOR -- NORTHERN TERRITORY GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Since early 2008, the Territory has been enjoying a boom in exploration that
has seen a consistent increase in its share of Australia's total mineral
exploration expenditure, from 5.3% in 2007/08 to 6.6% in 2008/09.
Whilst the rest of Australia has seen a significant downturn
in exploration due to the effect of the global financial
crisis, the Territory has bucked the national trend and
maintained record levels of exploration. In the 2008/09
financial year, a record $146.2M was spent on mineral exploration (up
by 10% over 2007/08's record of $132.7 million). The Northern Territory
was the only jurisdiction to increase its expenditure in 2008/09 relative
to the previous year. Over the same period, expenditure in Queensland
was down 12% and South Australia was down 38%.
The impacts of the global financial crisis began to severely impact
on Australian mineral exploration expenditure in the first two quarters
of 2009, with an Australia-wide fall of 30% in expenditure relative to
the same period the previous year, including dramatic falls of 60% in
Victoria and 55% in South Australia. In comparison, exploration
expenditure in the Northern Territory has remained fairly constant, with
$60.1 million being spent in the first half of 2009, compared with
$61.1 million in the first half of 2008, a drop of only 2%.
This strong exploration expenditure has been reflected on the
ground in a resurgence in exploration in a number of areas, including a
number of promising new discoveries. Highlights in the past year
3 Thundelarra Exploration's high-grade uranium discovery at
Thunderball, in the Pine Creek Orogen.
3 Revitalisation of exploration in the Tennant Creek mineral field,
including a major exploration joint venture between Emmerson
Resources and Ivanhoe Australia.
3 New high-grade gold and copper mineralisation discovered in the
Rover field by Westgold Resources and Adelaide Resources
3 Discovery of a new vanadium-magnetite resource at Mount Peake in
the Arunta Region by TNG Ltd.
3 A continuing exploration boom for phosphate in the Georgina
Basin, with major resource upgrades at Wonarah and Highland
3 Discovery of outcropping nickel and copper mineralisation in the
Harts Range by Mithril Resources.
This boom in exploration in the Territory has coincided with a range
of initiatives to stimulate exploration in the Territory through the NT
Government's four-year (2007-2011) $14.4 million Bringing Forward
Discovery initiative. Bringing Forward Discovery is designed to improve
the Territory's competitiveness as a destination for exploration
investment, and to increase the likelihood of new mineral discoveries.
Bringing Forward Discovery is delivering collaborative funding for
exploration drilling and geophysical surveys in greenfields regions, and
vastly improved coverage of regional gravity data across the Territory.
The initiative is also funding continuing high-quality geocience and
prospectivity assessment studies by the the Northern Territory
Geological Survey (NTGS), along with strategies to assist companies in
attracting international investment in their exploration programs.
Under the initiative, the Northern Territory Geological Survey (NTGS)
has embarked on a major campaign of regional gravity acquisition, to
complement the Territory's near-complete magnetic and radiometric
coverage. The 2008 Central Arunta and 2009 Barkly gravity surveys have
now been completed, with over 20,000 new gravity stations over an
area of 250,000km2 of the Arunta Region and the northern Georgina
Basin (Figure 1). The next gravity survey, to be undertaken in 2010, will
be the West Arunta survey, which will complete coverage of the Arunta
Region at a station spacing of 4km or less.
The Government is also stimulating greenfields exploration through
the three-year, $2.4 million Geophysics and Drilling Collaborations
program. The program aims to increase the intensity of exploration in
under-explored greenfields regions of the Territory, by providing 50% of
costs (up to $100,000) for selected projects to assist companies with
the costs of exploration geophysics or drilling in remote areas. A
number of encouraging results have been obtained from deep drillholes
across the Territory, and selected highlights of the program to date
3 Drilling by Bondi Mining (Murphy project) in an unexplored area
beneath the northern Georgina Basin intersected a 100m-wide zone
of hematite-chlorite alteration with anomalous uranium and copper,
and other drillholes intersected an unconformity between reducing
Murphy Inlier sediments and the Westmoreland Conglomerate.
3 Drilling by Ausquest Limited in the Simpson Desert has intersected
a previously unknown package of laminated sulfidic sediments with
sediment-hosted base-metal potential.
3 A regional gravity survey by Thundelarra Exploration in the Ngalia
Basin has defined major structures beneath sand cover that will be
a focus of future exploration.
3 Drilling by Proto Resources at Lindemanns Bore intersected a
previously undocumented package of Palaeoproterozoic carbonates
and with thick metamorphosed gabbro intrusions, underlying the
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