Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dr Anthony Lynham has announced that geologists have found evidence that a remote north-western part of the state may host rare minerals needed for advanced technologies.
Referred as Diamantina Minerals Province, the discovery is expected to give a significant boost to mining activity in the region.
The discovery includes an area from Fifield in central New South Wales through Queensland’s North West country ranging up to the Merlin diamond mine in the Northern Territory.
Dr Lynham said: "This may be a whole new frontier for Queensland. Beyond the potential economic boost for Queensland, the discovery brings a new understanding of mineral potential in a previously under-explored area."
The Department of Natural Resources and Mines (DNRM) experts along with the University of Queensland (UQ) have procured evidence that the province may contain precious metals such as platinum and gold as well as Rare Earth Elements (REE) which are used in advanced technologies to develop hybrid vehicle batteries and super-conducting magnets.
UQ Emeritus professor Ken Collerson along with the geologists of DNRM found extremely rare geological pipe structures at a remote area of western Queensland south-west of Mount Isa near the Northern Territory border.
These rare pipes had their sources very deep within the earth and can be up to 6km in diameter.
These pipes are expected to contain scandium, cobalt, nickel, copper, light and heavy rare earth elements, as well as platinum group elements.
REEs are further subdivided into light rare earth elements (LREE) and heavy rare earth elements (HREE), and known to feature unique properties that are used in modern green technologies.
Dr Lynham said: “The type of minerals found in the geological pipes are in high demand around the world, particularly in the development of cutting-edge technology.
“Advanced technologies such as fuel cells (scandium), mobile phones (tantalum), super-conducting magnets (niobium) and hybrid vehicle batteries (cobalt) all rely on access to the minerals we believe are here.
“An opportunity exists for the right type of company to maximise this detailed geological information and take it to the next step commercially.”
These REEs hold increasing importance in modern and green technologies, which are set to replace the carbon-based economy with the 21st century electron economy in the future.
The supplies of these REE elements are expected to fall short of demand in the next tento 15 years.
The global production of REE is estimated to be 112,500t, with an economic value of A$4bn-A$6bn ($3bn-4.5bn).
Image: Drilling in NW Queensland. Photo: © State of Queensland.