Speech to the Geoscience Australia Exploring For the Future 2023 program showcase launch

National Arboretum Canberra

We are gathered on the lands of the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, and I begin by paying my respects to their elders past and present.   

I extend that respect to First Nations peoples present here this morning. 

I would also like to acknowledge Dr James Johnson, CEO of Geoscience Australia, who is our host for today’s launch. 

I also recognise Dr Cathy Foley, our Chief Scientist; Jane Urquhart, Deputy Secretary of my department; Lyn O’Connell, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water; and Sam Reinhardt, Deputy Secretary of Treasury. 

Australia is fortunate to be rich in minerals, energy, and groundwater. 

These resources have provided wealth and prosperity to Australians. 

Resources and energy exports earned a record $459 billion in the past financial year. 

And agricultural exports earnings were forecast to reach $70.3 billion.

As the global transition to clean energy sources accelerates, resources will become even more pivotal to Australia’s economic and social development.  

To decarbonise and get to net zero, we will need more resources, especially critical minerals and rare earth elements.  

Traditional commodities, including our energy resources, will also play an essential role in supporting our transition to net zero.  

These resources will also continue to underwrite energy security for our key trading partners.  

So too will emissions reduction technologies like carbon capture and storage, green steel production and low emission energy sources like hydrogen.   

We’ll also need to manage our water better to grow food and support industry as we adapt to a warming climate. 

To unearth new mineral, energy and groundwater resources we must explore in new and innovative ways. Without new projects in the pipeline, the government’s ability to drive decarbonisation will be far harder. 

And of course reduced collection of mining taxes, royalties and export income will impact our ability to deliver essential community services and infrastructure. 

So, accelerating exploration and resource investment in Australia has never been more important. 

The key to unlocking new commercial exploration is precompetitive geoscience. 

This is comprehensive, integrated and publicly accessible geoscience data and information focused on frontier regions. 

It narrows the search space into prospective regions and allows explorers and investors to make informed decisions about where they concentrate their own activities. 

Geoscience Australia’s Exploring for the Future program is a world leading example of precompetitive geoscience. 

Originally a four-year program when launched in 2016, the program was extended for a further four years in 2020, and its budget topped up to $225 million. 

The program has given us an unparalleled view of what’s below the ground, down to 50 km or more. 

It is helping to identify new sources of groundwater for communities and agricultural producers between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek in the NT, and Wilcannia in NSW. 

It has identified new regions with enormous mineral and resource potential, unlocked new gas provinces and stimulated new exploration activity. 

Thanks to the data collected by Geoscience Australia, almost 50 companies are now exploring in areas that had previously received minimal or no prior attention.

These companies have taken up 415 new tenements over an area larger than the United Kingdom.

Six world class mineral deposits have been discovered in Australia underpinned by precompetitive data and analysis from Geoscience Australia and the state and territory geological surveys.

This includes the giant Tier 1 deposits of Gonneville, which consists of palladium, platinum, nickel, copper, cobalt and gold, and Hemi, a gold deposit. Both of these are significant greenfield discoveries in Western Australia, made possible by the Exploring for the Future program of Geoscience Australia.

Resources have been the foundation for Australia’s economic success for decades. 

However, we can’t take mining’s future success for granted – not when the risks associated with new undercover discoveries are so high. 

To find the new minerals, energy and groundwater resources that will support our clean energy future, we must continue to encourage and support commercial exploration. 

Geoscience Australia, together with state and territory geological surveys and CSIRO, are vital agents in this work. 

Working together, I’m confident we will meet the challenges of geology, long timeframes, and high risk to position Australia’s resources sector for the future. 

Thank you.