By ERWIN CHLANDA
“A clear message to the mining industry – the Northern Territory is the place to be.”
Mining Minister Nicole Manison was addressing more than 300 industry people attending the Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar (AGES) in Alice Springs this morning.
She said the NT has 15 of the critical minerals the world needs, “and we have lots of copper as well, and 13 prospective critical minerals”.
She said there is a huge growth of exploration for critical minerals needed to tackle climate change. They are used in the electrical machinery and help replacing non-renewable fuels.
Minister Manison said the government will change the royalty system to ad valorem, including petroleum.
The means royalties will be based on value instead of the wellhead price.
When asked whether this will result in more money for the government Minister Manison said this is not yet clear because there are many different ad valorem models: “There will be a 12 months consultation.
“We want the best deal for the Northern Territory when it comes to the amount of royalties but also when it comes to the economic gains that mining generates throughout the Territory, especially in our regional and remote parts.”
Some big mines are due to shut down in the next few years, including Nhulunbuy and Groote Island.
Will the new royalty system mean more or less royalties for the NT?
“I’m hoping the extra economic activity and more successful mines getting out of the ground will lead to a stronger royalties base in the future. Royalties are the biggest source of revenue for the NT.”
Minster Manison (pictured at a doorstop at AGES this morning) says the NT has the nation’s best exploration program, increased from $6.5m to $9.5m a year. 2022 was the second-highest year for exploration expenditure – $200m.
“This is about helping those 19 mining projects in different stages that will help deliver 6000 construction jobs and 4000 ongoing jobs to get them out of the ground because we’re finding the hardest part is getting to financial close.”
Arafura Rare Earth north of Alice Springs is among the “great prospects” to deliver the materials the world needs for electric vehicles. Major agreements with electric car and wind turbine manufacturers in Germany are already in place, says the Minister.
The gas field in the Beetaloo Basin is a “really important” development for energy security. A fuel of transition to renewables is needed “and that is gas”. It is a cleaner fuel than coal which is still used extensively on the east coast.
The government has seen “some fantastic exploration results” in Beetaloo.
“We are working towards finalising the Pepper (fracking) inquiry [after which] we can look forward to production,” Minister Manison said in reply to a question from the Alice Springs News.
Given the urgent need to phase in renewable energy resources, how long will Beetaloo be working for?
“Beetaloo will continue to operate for as long as it is commercially viable. [The companies] work towards making sure they are viable and profitable. While demand is there they will continue to operate.”
What is the government income from mining compared to the support mining gets from the government?
Minister Manison says between $350m and $400m is generated from royalties and grants for exploration, for example, are just $9.5m a year.
What about infrastructure used by mining?
“I don’t think you can count single projects. There are multiple benefits. For example we’re working with the Federal Government sealing the Tanami Road (where the rich Newmont goldmine is located).
“That’s going to benefit the communities that live out there, tourism, the pastoral sector, the mining sector.”
IMAGE: Exploration activity in the Beetaloo Basin, from a presentation this morning by Ian Scrimgeour · Senior Executive Director, NT Geological Survey at NT Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade.