Mining in the NT has turned the corner


2523 AGES crowd OK
2523 Ian Scrimgeour OKBy ERWIN CHLANDA
“Last year was the year the mining industry turned around,” Ian Scrimgeour, executive director of the NT Geological Survey, told the Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar in Alice Springs this morning.
He says after plummeting from the peak of $228m in 2011 to $78m in 2016, exploration expenditure in the Territory rose again in 2017 to $91m.
Greenfields exploration expenditure in the NT has doubled since 2014 to $45m.
The NT now has about 10% of Australian greenfields exploration but brownfields spending plummeted from the $145m peak in 2012 to now being below the spend on greenfields.
The major exploration expenditure in the Territory is on base metals (33%), gold (22%) and uranium (10%) which was in decline but may now also have reached the bottom.
In terms of regions, McArthur Basin has 22%, and in The Centre, Arunta and Pine Creek have 20% each of the exploration activities.
Gold mining in the Tanami is booming: The Newmont (Callie) mines, including the historic Granites, north-west of Alice Springs, are finding more gold than they can mine, says Mr Scrimgeour.
Tanami Operations are now a 14 million ounce deposit. A $150m expansion opened in 2017.
The approval process has started for a 439 km gas pipeline from Amadeus pipeline to Dead Bullock Soak in the Tanami, so fuel doesn’t have to be transported by road.
Northern Star Resources are continuing to expand their footprint in the Tanami with a major magnetic and radiometric geophysical survey in 2017. Drilling programs are planned for 2018.
There are small gold mines in Tennant Creek: Edna Beryl, which is operating, and Black Snake and Chariot which are in development.
Copper exploration is under way at Mount Hardy (early stage) and Jervois which is advanced, undergoing feasibility studies.
Grapple, west of Alice near the border, is an early stage greenfield, but has promising exploration results for several metals.
There is exploration at Hatches Creek, reworking an historical field. Molyhil is also an historic field, waiting for investment. It was once owned by legendary prospector Kurt Johannsen.
Lithium is at Anniningie, Barrow Creek and Delmore: They are at a very early exploration stage.
2523 AGES map OKThere is uranium at Malawi, near Yuendumu. It is a “maiden inferred resource” waiting for the price to go up.
There is phosphate at Ammaroo, copper at Jervois, vanadium at Mount Peake and rare earths at Nolans: These are advanced projects, have gone through the environmental assessment process and are waiting for further investment and final approvals.
The proposed salt mine at Chandler, south of Alice Springs, is progressing through environmental approvals.
Exploration in the Beetaloo sub-basin is on hold while the fracking moratorium is in place.
Central Petroleum is carrying out a $12m upgrade of the Mereenie gas processing plant.
There is an increase in gas sales from 15 to 58 terrajoules per day and more drilling is planned. It is tipped to result in tripling known reserves.
There will be drilling at Ooraminna, and production at Palm Valley will restart this year.
Mr Scrimgeour says there is every reason to expect a strong year for exploration in 2018: “The outlook is very positive for gold, base metals and battery metals in the NT.”
The elephant in the room is the release of draft report of the Hydraulic Fracturing Inquiry in late March.
“Unprecedented levels of new geoscience are being released,” he says.
“We have only scratched the surface of the Territory’s potential.”


  1. Fracking was not the only elephant in the room at AGES. There was complete silence on the issue of climate change and environmental responsibilities. Any mineral or petroleum operator in the 21st century is required to undertake their operations that are environmentally and socially responsible. This is often however not the case in the NT.
    Mining in the NT has a fraught history of boom and serious bust. The country is littered with legacy projects that continue to pose a financial burden on the taxpayer for ongoing rehabilitation efforts. The environmental catastrophe that is the McArthur River Mine (no royalties paid in 2016) and toxic legacy of Redbank Mine were not mentioned. There are still significant flaws in the regulation of mining in the NT which pose significant risk to human and environmental health.
    An obvious absurdity with petroleum exploration is the need to keep the vast majority of our known fossil fuel reserves in the ground to keep warming below two degrees. Why are companies and the Government working together to discover more resources when it is highly likely they will become a stranded asset?
    Petroleum exploration is financially and environmentally irresponsible.
    Company directors have a duty of care to foresee financial risk; climate change has now been legally acknowledged to be a foreseeable risk that must be taken into account or directors may be personally liable.
    Mineral development should only occur if there are robust rehabilitation plans in place and a company demonstrates they can operate responsibly while equally distributing the economic benefits of their projects.

  2. The final approvals on Nolans and Mt Peake are waiting for land use agreements with the traditional owners, TOs of the land they are situated on.
    The Central Land Council is tasked to reach an agreement with the TOs to provide compensation, usually employment training and royalties.
    This is the step that is slowing the NT down.
    Take Mt Peake, this is potentially a world class mine offering hundreds of jobs and royalties to the NT Government.
    The CLC has been in discussion with TOs for years and still no agreement has been reached.
    The CLC is paid by the mining companies as consultants to do this work and the longer it takes the more they get.
    Because of the long delay companies like TNG are forced to go to arbitration, another long winded process.


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