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Quality projects pushing new frontiers

Accelerated Discovery Initiative opening new search spaces.

More than a dozen dynamic projects will share in $2.9 million awarded in the first round of the South Australian government’s Accelerated Discovery Initiative (ADI).

The successful bids answer the ADI’s call to transform greenfield exploration by embracing new technologies, new ideas and partnerships.

Announcing successful applicants at Copper to the World Online, Minister for Energy and Mining, The Hon Dan van Holst Pellekaan, said many of the awarded proposals are genuinely directed at promising targets in frontier districts and have the potential to open up new search spaces.

‘South Australia’s international leadership in exploration innovation has ensured stable production, and the integration of new methodologies in mineral exploration will position the state to capture ongoing future success,’ Minister van Holst Pellekaan said.

Traditional government-funded mineral exploration programs have focused on drill targets whereas the expanded dimension and scope of the ADI’s brief is Australia’s most diverse co-funding program of its type. It reflects the changing drivers in exploration with a heavy emphasis on new technologies, scientific endeavour and upskilling to boost discovery and reduce risk.

Judging by the diverse bank of projects, the ADI has achieved its remit to create a new benchmark in stimulating discovery (Fig. 1).

ADI Round 1 funded projects locations.

Figure 1 ADI Round 1 funded projects locations.

Several projects bring fresh thinking to frontier exploration, attracting collaborations between universities and international explorers bringing proof-of-concept studies.

In this vein, is a project testing whether a style of sedimentary-hosted copper found in the world famous Zambian Copper Belt in Africa also occurs in South Australia. If so, this has the potential to expand the economic significance of this mineralisation style and open a new search space. The grant for the Zambian Copper Belt model project awarded to DGO Gold is a collaboration with the University of Tasmania incorporating the latest in trace element geochemistry testing along with advanced geophysical methods.

With rapidly evolving exploration approaches and tools, several of the proposals are expected to shake up the status quo of exploration workflows by integrating new technologies.

Exploration workflows are the critical process that balances the planning, assessment and appraisal of targets to reduce risk and maximise the chance of discovery. A paradigm shift is needed to embrace future success by refining methods for how prospective geology is targeted.

Many of the proposals will apply contemporary and innovative approaches in various combinations. These range from incorporating surface geology testing and detailed sample analysis, and integrating airborne geophysical techniques, to studying the heat flow in basement geology. A number of projects apply large-scale modelling and machine learning to data analysis. Also in the mix is the technique of mineral system footprinting to detect where ore bodies might lie.

First round offers have been awarded to projects searching for sedimentary copper, iron oxide – copper–gold (IOCG) complexes, intrusion-related copper, gold, uranium, rare earths and kaolin.

The successful grants range from $50,000 to $320,000 with the government matching the proposed company expenditure.

The $10 million ADI runs to 2022 and the first round was significantly over-subscribed with many high-quality proposals. COVID-19 has impacted the exploration sector, as it has many other industries. The ADI will support exploration COVID-19 recovery, and as such, the remaining ADI funding has increased Round 2 to $4.5 million for the 2020/2021 financial year. Round 2 will open later this year.

The South Australian government hopes Round 1 projects, and the sharing of their data in the future will ultimately lead to the discovery of new commercially significant ore bodies, accelerating discovery and development.

Companies involved in the ADI benefit by sending a signal to the market they are innovative in accessing the latest thinking and tools to drive successful exploration programs.

More about Round 1 funded projects

Successful applicants announced June 2020

SEDIMENTARY COPPER

DGO Gold Limited – Testing the Zambian Copper Belt model on the Stuart Shelf

This proposal will look at South Australia’s geology with fresh eyes by testing whether a style of copper mineralisation that exists in the Zambian Copper Belt can be found in South Australia. The proposal will apply the learnings from research into trace element geochemistry from pyrite and extend an existing research collaboration with the University of Tasmania. It will bring geophysical techniques not previously applied to searching for this style of mineralisation in South Australia, which collectively will inform the selection of drillholes.

FQM Exploration – Geochemical mapping of a copper mineral system

This is a proof-of-concept proposal that seeks to integrate and refine geochemical sampling, spectroscopy and geophysical data to map a potential large-scale sediment-hosted copper system. The integrated workflow process will yield vectors pointing to potential mineralisation to guide target selection for subsequent drill testing.

IOCG MINERAL SYSTEMS

Petratherm Ltd – Eastern Mabel Creek Ridge (Deeps)

This drill test of IOCG targets in a genuine frontier region is expected to advance the understanding of basement geology in the Mabel Creek area. The targets selected require significant expense to test and carry significant exploration risk. While current interpretation places the targets within the prospective Olympic Domain of the Gawler Craton, in reality, the basement geological setting is poorly understood.

Argonaut Resources – Murdie IOCG Project

A proposal seeking to integrate and deploy several geophysical techniques to refine how targets are selected when drilling for IOCG mineralisation. The region is recognised as having demonstrated prospectivity for high-grade IOCG mineralisation but is poorly tested due to the inferred depth to reach target rocks, and the surface logistics of working in a lake environment. Operators are committed to working with the lightest touch to minimise land disturbance.

Minotaur Exploration Ltd – Using innovation to enter a new frontier - Taking new IOCG model to the Peak and Denison Inliers

A proposal that integrates a multidisciplinary workflow incorporating geophysics to refine drill targeting in a genuine frontier exploration setting. Previous exploration points to the potential prospectivity of the Peak and Denison area with the age of hosts rocks and alteration sharing similarities to those found in Queensland’s Cloncurry district, a world-famous base metals province home to three world-class mines – Mt Isa, Ernest Henry and Cannington. The program will make a valuable contribution to better understanding the basement geology.

GEOPHYSICS

Havilah Resources Limited – Jupiter MT Anomaly Definition Study

Early, broad-spaced magnetotelluric (MT) geophysical surveys from the Jupiter prospect area highlight a positive response comparable to Olympic Dam. This proposal, in collaboration with the University of Adelaide, seeks to improve significantly the resolution of conductivity modelling with the aim of guiding future exploration efforts in this promising, but poorly understood region.

Boss Resources – Utilising 3D passive seismic and slalom high-definition seismic reflection

The ADI grant will support proof-of-concept testing towards innovative and emerging geophysical techniques and compare the approach with conventional targeting methods at the Honeymoon uranium project. The team will deploy passive seismic and high-definition seismic reflection methods to delineate paleochannel systems to guide drilling in the search for uranium mineralisation.

Alligator Energy – Greenfield exploration for in situ recovery for uranium deposits in the Cooper Basin

The Cooper Basin is well known for its hydrocarbon production, but it also has the potential to host roll-front style uranium mineralisation within Tertiary-age paleochannels, similar to the Beverley and Four Mile deposits. This proposal applies a multidisciplinary approach to define drilling targets that will involve reprocessing existing 3D seismic data acquired for oil and gas exploration, complemented with either passive seismic acquisition or regional airborne electromagnetic surveying to refine the mapping of paleochannels. Selected targets will be tested with up to 5,000 metres of aircore drilling.

FMG Resources – Roopena Fault Zone infill ground gravity

This proposal seeks to acquire a very extensive, detailed and high-quality gravity dataset that will make a valuable addition to the state’s knowledge assets in the Roopena Fault Zone. The high-resolution data and information gathered will improve the ability to delineate new drilling targets, by an order of magnitude.

Fleet Space Technologies – Large arrays of wireless sensors for remote mapping of heat flow

Studying the flow of heat emanating from basement rocks buried several kilometres beneath the earth’s surface has the potential to identify large buried IOCG–uranium deposit styles. This proposal seeks to test and prove an efficient and new way of measuring heat flow at depth in the ongoing effort to identify ore bodies concealed by cover.

Ausmex Mining Group Ltd – Intrusive related mineral systems, Delamerian Orogeny, Burra SA

Having conducted exploration at regional scale in the Burra area, this proposal applies a new workflow aimed at improving the resolution of modelling conductivity to test a theory that conductivity is associated with mineral systems in the area. The project will refine how magnetotelluric survey data can be applied to target a new and important style of mineralisation related to the copper deposits historically mined at Burra, which may enhance the exploration prospectivity of this region. The proposal includes drill testing the targets from the survey.

Havilah Resources Ltd – Investigation of REE mineralisation in the Benagerie Dome

The Curnamona region has long been recognised as having the potential to host rare earth elements (REE), an unrealised opportunity. This proposal, in collaboration with the University of South Australia, seeks to objectively quantify the style and economic potential of REE associated within some of the known mineral deposits. The proposal will be an important step forward for understanding the contribution this region may offer in delivering strategic and critical minerals to support high-tech industries.

GEOCHEMISTRY

Marmota Ltd – Expressions of mineralisation in surface plant biochemistry on the NW Gawler Craton

Detecting buried gold mineralisation in the Gawler Craton remains extremely challenging. This proposal will compare the novel method of sampling plants to detect buried gold with the more conventional sampling of surface calcrete, and calibrate both methods to drilling results. Advancing the choice of reliable detection techniques available to explorers will help boost the success rate of discovering South Australia’s concealed gold deposits.

HALLOYSITE

Andromeda Metals Ltd – Andromeda Metals Halloysite Quantification Project

Recent work by several companies has highlighted the potential for significant deposits of high-value halloysite kaolin in South Australia. The existing processes for accurately determining the proportion of high-value halloysite kaolin from lower value kaolin are slow and in need of an overhaul. Collaborative work with research institutions aims to improve the sampling, analytical techniques and analytical protocols needed to support a commercial approach to halloysite quantification. If successful, new testing processes will fast-track sector development, enabling quality South Australian halloysite to make its way into high-value industrial applications that include the emerging opportunities in nanotechnology.

Note: Not all successful applicants may choose to take up offer

– Grace Taylor and Marc Twining, July 2020

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