A new research collaboration, backed by BHP, South32, Anglo American and Barrick, has been launched in Australia to develop technologies to increase the discovery of new mineral deposits.

Known as the MinEx Cooperative Research Centre (MinEx CRC), the A$218m ($155.5m) research collaboration will focus on developing technologies to unlock the potential of mineral deposits located beneath deep rock cover.

The centre, which secured A$50m ($35.66m) in federal government funding, will also develop technologies that improve the productivity of drilling and simultaneously collect data.

MinEx CRC is also supported by a A$165m ($117.7m) commitment from 34 partners belonging to the Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector over the next ten years.

MinEx CRC chairman Chris Pigram noted that the establishment of the research organisation was necessitated by the slump in discovery of new mineral deposits.

Pigram said: “There are few, if any, major new mineral deposits that are exposed at the earth’s surface yet to be found in Australia, and as a result, mineral exploration is moving from Australia to less well explored countries.

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“Today is an exciting day for Australia’s mining and resources sector, as we begin meeting the technical challenge of finding deposits in a more cost-effective way.”

“Lowering the cost of drilling, while gathering critical exploration data, means we can drill more holes and discover more deposits.”

“Lowering the cost of drilling, while gathering critical exploration data, means we can drill more holes and discover more deposits.”

Australia’s share of global mineral exploration has fallen to 12.5% from around 25% in the 1990s, partly due to increased drilling costs over the last 20 years.

MinEx CRC CEO Andrew Bailey said: “We will develop new exploration tools and new ways to deploy them, that will recognise the fundamental importance of collecting data from the subsurface.

Furthermore, MinEx CRC is introducing a National Drilling Initiative (NDI), a collaboration of Government Geological Surveys, researchers and industry. The NDI will be responsible for performing drilling in underexplored areas of potential mineral wealth.