Atlas brings muscle to Australia's clean energy future

An industry-led, wide-scale search through previously mined and discarded rock and earth could help boost Australia’s global position as a clean energy powerhouse.

Geoscience Australia, through its Exploring for the Future program, will help enable the search with a newly developed atlas of sites across the nation that may contain previously overlooked critical minerals – including those used to produce electric vehicles and solar panels.

The Atlas is a collaboration with RMIT University, the University of Queensland, and the geological surveys of Queensland, New South Wales, Northern Territory, Victoria and South Australia.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King said the new Atlas of Australian Mine Waste, could provide industry with additional opportunities to extract valuable resources from previously mined rock and earth.

“Some of the minerals we need now, and into the future, may not just be in the ground - they're also in rock piles and tailings on mine sites around the country,” Minister King said.

“These minerals might not have been of interest when first extracted but could now be in hot demand as the world seeks to decarbonise – for example, cobalt in the tailings of old copper mines.

“This new Atlas puts these potentially lucrative sites on the map for the first time and may open up new sources of critical materials.”

Minister King said that so far, the Atlas had identified 1,050 sites across Australia as possible sources of critical minerals.

“Our resources sector is the key to our net zero future – and this is another tool developed by Government to help facilitate the discovery of critical minerals in a more efficient, sustainable way – and to the highest standards,” Minister King said.

“Reprocessing rocks and earth that have been previously excavated during mining operations can give new life to old mining towns, create jobs and rejuvenate local economies.”

The Atlas of Australian Mine Waste can be accessed here.