The cash-strapped Northern Territory government has hitched its wagon to the resources sector in a bid to climb out of debt, with more funding for exploration.
There are currently 19 mining projects approaching Final Investment Decision in the Territory, worth a combined value of $5.8 billion.
The funding boost from $6.5 million to $9.5 million increases the grants available for further exploration work, with hopes it will lead to the projects being green-lit.
"We've done a lot of exploration over the past decade and we know the Territory is mineral-rich," Chief Minister Michael Gunner said on Tuesday.
"We're backing (the miners) in to stimulate the sector on high prospect projects and get them off the ground."
Funding will also be made available for operational projects to conduct exploration work to extend mine life, and for exploration to identify new deposits.
The mining sector is worth $4.4 billion annually to the Territory and is the biggest employer.
The private sector has invested more than $350 million in minerals and petroleum exploration expenditure in the NT since 2018.
"The success of this program is evidenced by the attraction of major resource companies including Rio Tinto, BHP and Newcrest Mining into the Barkly," Mining and Industry Minister Nicole Manison said.
The NT is the world's largest manganese producer and has some of Australia's largest zinc, gold, bauxite, and rare earth deposits.
Asked about the potential environmental impact of more mining projects in the NT, Ms Manison said "significant" legislative reform had already been made and would continue to be made to protect the environment and encourage investment.
"We are basically moving to a system that is much like Western Australia ... and we know that WA is seen as a world-class mining destination," she said.
"We're making sure we make assessment efficient and we make approvals efficient."
The announcement comes weeks out from the NT budget, which is expected to show the Territory is falling deeper into the red.
The 2020/21 budget released in November showed the NT's net debt was forecast to be $8.4 billion in 2020/21, blowing out to $12 billion by 2023/24.
The increase in annual funding for mineral exploration to $9.5 million will occur on July 1 next year, with $6.5 million available from July 1 this year.
Australian Associated Press