An image of core drilling for exploration.

The Federal Government has announced that its Budget will invest in Australia’s resources industry.

The Budget is expected to show a $566.1 million investment over ten years from 2024-25 to deliver data, maps and other tools for use by the resources industry aimed at leading to new discoveries and powering the Australian economy.

The Federal Government said it will deploy Australia’s top geoscientists to fully map the Australian resources that will power the future, help the industry make more in Australia and secure jobs now and for the next generation.

The program is expected to support regional communities, farmers and First Nations peoples to manage their land and water resources and be fully informed about potential mining projects.

Under the funding, Resourcing Australia’s Prosperity (RAP) will be fully funded for 35 years. Additionally, RAP will map offshore areas of Australia as well, pointing to sites for carbon capture and storage, as well as possible sites for clean hydrogen projects.

It is hoped this will provide a deeper understanding of the resource potential of Australia’s regions by mapping out all of the country’s groundwater systems, supporting climate resilience, the agricultural sector and water security for communities and the environment.

The long-term investment will be led by Geoscience Australia, whose precompetitive data program has led to discoveries such as deposits of the critical minerals and rare earths needed for clean energy technologies.

The Federal Government said that precompetitive geoscience is the key to the strength of Australia’s resources sector, with Deloitte Access Economics finding that existing public precompetitive geoscience was estimated to have supported $76 billion of value added to the Australian economy and 80,000 full-time equivalent jobs in 2021-2022.

The Federal Government said that Australian precompetitive geoscience has helped stimulate an unprecedented level of exploration activity, with 65 companies exploring across 569 tenements, covering over 290,000 square kilometres of Australia.

Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, said, “There is no nation on earth better placed than Australia to achieve our goal of moving toward a clean energy future.

“This investment highlights the government’s commitment to building a secure and sustainable future for all Australians. By investing significantly in geoscience, we can boost our progress towards net zero.”

Federal Minister for Resources, Madeleine King, said, “The road to net zero runs through Australia’s resources sector.

“This funding will ensure we can draw the map for our resources companies to find the minerals we need to drive our economy and build the technology we need to reduce emissions.

“The Albanese Government has put the resources industry at the heart of its policy making because it knows a strong resources sector means a strong Australia.

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

Industry response

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) welcomed the investment in enhancing geoscientific research across the nation.

MCA’s CEO, Tania Constable, said, “This commitment marks a significant milestone in the MCA’s longstanding advocacy for increased funding to Geoscience Australia. “Enabling public access to a richer set of nationally consistent pre-competitive data offers a detailed investment prospectus for mining companies but also paves the way for more precise and productive exploration efforts.”

Ms Constable said that the investment reinforces the essential role that pre-competitive geoscience data plays in de-risking exploration and supporting investment planning.

“Such data is crucial for maximising the economic returns from Australia’s rich mineral endowments. Precompetitive geoscience data and analysis supported 3.5 percent 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.”

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA’s (CME) CEO, Rebecca Tomkinson, said the investment in Geoscience Australia under the Future Made in Australia policy was an intelligent way to leverage geoscientific data and ensure projects had greater clarity for investment and initiation.

“This initiative means companies can understand where critical resources seams are located and how they interact with the needs of other important onshore and offshore projects.

“Having publicly available information is critical to ensuring there is common understanding of 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.

“It’s counter-intuitive, for example, to place a wind or solar farm directly over an area that is needed for the critical minerals deposits required by renewable energy projects.”

Ms Tomkinson said that it’s important that the investment in scientific data is supported by appropriate industry policy to ensure Australians can benefit from the immense opportunity lying below the surface.

“The right policy and fiscal settings will be critical to ensure the discovery of new mineral seams can then be developed efficiently and in a competitive way.

“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 tell us that much.”

Image credit: Adwo/Shutterstock.com.

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