Two years after the MinEx Cooperative Research Centre (MinEx CRC) launched in Australia, the group has unveiled its scientific drilling programme, a world first, the National Drilling Initiative (NDI).

NDI, which will sample rocks from unexplored regions of Australia, could offer insight into where the industry could search for new mineral deposits and potentially advance the next generation of mineral exploration, MinEx said.

NDI will oversee and deliver a seven-year programme across Australia with multiple drilling campaigns. Holes are already being drilled in some regions so that researchers can further understand the geology in three dimensions.

The group pointed out that the NDI is not itself an exploration programme – it is searching for “new evidence about the existence of mineralising systems” so that exploration companies can “take up the search” from that point.

“Australia has a rich mining heritage and is blessed with abundant mineral resources. However, vast areas of Australia are poorly understood because prospective rocks are hidden below younger rocks, soils and sand,” MinEx CRC CEO Andrew Bailey said.

“It is a necessary action by government to lower the risk for explorers to come into previously unexplored terrain. Without this pre-competitive work, explorers will invest their money elsewhere, most probably outside of Australia.”

The first of the NDI drilling campaigns, a collaboration between MinEx CRC, Geoscience Australia and the Northern Territory Geological Survey, commenced this month in the East Tennant and South Nicholson areas in the Northern Territory.

MinEx CRC was first established in 2018 under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre programme. It has provided funding to build critical mass in research ventures and ultimate deliver significant economic, environmental and social benefits for Australia.