The Minister for Resources and Northern Australia says aFederal Government-funded mining exploration program in the East Tennant region has uncovered promises of abundant gold and copper.
The preliminary data from drilling sites across the region, extending along a 350 kilometre corridor between Tennant Creek and the Queensland border, shows the area is "highly prospective" for minerals.
Now, the biggest challenge for the Australian mineral resources sector is further exploring and effectively extracting the gold and copper "concealed deep undercover," Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said.
Welcoming the results of the National Drilling Initiative's first project, led by the MinEx CRC with support from Geoscience Australia and the Northern Territory Geological Survey, Mr Pitt said the confirmation of minerals in a previously underexplored area could shore up industry interest and lead to a "wave of new discoveries".
"This area east of Tennant Creek has seen little mineral exploration because of the expense and risk of searching beneath the overlying sediments," he said.
"While further analysis will be conducted in collaboration with MinEx CRC researchers, this drilling data confirms our view that the East Tennant region has the right geology to host a range of mineral systems. The drilling uncovered copper mineralisation that could indicate that rich deposits occur in the region.
"The East Tennant region was identified off the back of the pre-competitive data collected through the Exploring for the Future Program - demonstrating the value of this $225 million Australian Government initiative. The new knowledge delivered by the project will help industry more effectively explore this region."
Ten holes were drilled into the region for a total of nearly 4000 metres, including over 1500 metres of diamond cored basement rocks.
Despite studies that had found the East Tennant area is almost completely covered by sedimentary rocks of the Georgina Basin, somewhat obscuring minerals beneath, Geoscience Australia undertook a series of studies mapping mineral potential.
"The footprint of a mineral system is potentially detectable at a variety of scales, from ore deposits to the Earth's crust and lithosphere," one research paper states.
The drill holes were designed to test the potential of basement rocks in the East Tennant area to host gold- and copper-rich mineral deposits similar to those previously in the Tennant Creek mineral field.
Dr Andrew Heap, chief of the Minerals, Energy and Groundwater Division at Geoscience Australia said researchers will now conduct an "in-depth analyses of the drill samples".
Positive findings could centre the region as one of Australia's most "exciting exploration frontiers", he said.
"Drilling has identified rocks of the right age to host mineralisation and has uncovered evidence for key mineralising processes, such as the presence of major structures, hydrothermal alteration, and base metal sulphides."
- More reading: Miners seek out hidden wealth east of Tennant Creek
MinEx CRC chief executive, Andrew Bailey, said the National Drilling Initiative introduced new mineral exploration technologies to "bring forward the next generation of mineral exploration" and reduce the program's carbon footprint.
"In addition to using conventional drilling methods, the NDI is deploying innovative mineral exploration technologies currently being developed by MinEx CRC and sponsoring organisations," Mr Bailey said.
"These technologies will improve safety and deliver more extensive information at a lower cost.
"The NDI also provides a testing platform to refine and optimise these technologies, bringing them closer to market."
The multi-million dollar initiative is a world-first collaboration between government, industry and research organisations to find deposits, Northern Territory Minister for Mining and Industry, Nicole Manison said, with the potential to provide "exciting" opportunities for exploration companies.
"Mining is a huge job creator in the Northern Territory, employing over 4400 people directly and with a number of projects in the pipeline we can only expect this number to boom," Minister Manison said.
"Our resources industry is one of the biggest contributors to the Territory economy and successful pre-competitive geoscience programs like the NDI help to grow the industry in regional and remote areas - so all Territorians can benefit."
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