First major release from expanded Exploring for Future program

New airborne electromagnetic data from the Exploring for the Future program will provide an unprecedented snapshot of the geology of south-eastern Australia.

Geoscience Australia recently undertook a large airborne electromagnetic (AEM) survey throughout parts of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia as part of the $225 million Exploring for the Future program.

Chief of the Minerals, Energy and Groundwater division at Geoscience Australia, Dr Andrew Heap, said the survey was conducted across more than 600,000 square kilometres of south-eastern Australia - an area almost the size of France - to identify potential new minerals, groundwater and energy resources.

"During this survey, we concentrated on an area spanning from Peterborough in South Australia to Wilcannia in New South Wales, and from Tibooburra in New South Wales to Warrnambool in Victoria," Dr Heap said.

"This region – which is part of the Eastern Resources Corridor we identified last year - contains important crustal boundaries including those between the Curnamona Province, the Delamerian Orogen and the Lachlan Fold Belt.

"This area once hosted ancient mountains and volcanoes formed during a period of intense mountain-building about 490 to 514 million years ago."

While these mountains and volcanoes have eroded with time, Dr Heap said periods of intense mountain-building were key to the creation of mineral deposits.

"Because of this, we think this region has potential to host a wide range of mineral deposits including copper, gold, lead and zinc, as well as critical minerals," Dr Heap said.

"The Curnamona Province has been one of Australia's premier mineral production regions for nearly 140 years and hosts the world-class Broken Hill lead-zinc-silver-gold deposit.

"The region could also host natural hydrogen gas seeps - created by chemical reactions between water and sulphide-bearing rocks - which could assist Australia's transition to a lower-emissions energy future."

The data from this survey is now available through the Exploring for the Future Data Discovery Portal.

It is the first major dataset to be released from the Exploring for the Future program's work in southern Australia, Dr Heap said.

"Previous AEM surveys from the Exploring for the Future program in the Northern Territory and Queensland have contributed to more than 160,000 square kilometres of exploration tenement uptake by industry between East Tennant and Mount Isa," Dr Heap said.

"Industry can now use the data from the Eastern Resources Corridor AEM survey to target their own exploration activities, which will create jobs and economic growth.

"This data can also be potentially used to reveal new aquifers, which will help improve water security for agricultural and pastoral communities across south-eastern Australia."

The data are being interpreted by Geoscience Australia in partnership with the state geological surveys, with the first interpretations to be released mid-next year.

"This survey was undertaken through Exploring for the Future's Australia's Resources Framework project – a continental-scale project which is delivering national maps and databases of geochemistry, geochronology, geophysics and geology," Dr Heap said.

"One of the major objectives of the program is to develop a national framework for understanding our mineral resource endowment. This framework will provide new insights on the regional geological processes that control mineral, energy and groundwater distribution, and therefore resource potential, across Australia."

The data from the Eastern Resources Corridor survey will also be incorporated into the national dataset, AusAEM - an ongoing series of 20-kilometre lined-spaced AEM surveys which have which now been conducted over 3.6 million square kilometres of Australia. Surveys in Queensland and Western Australia were co-funded by the Exploring for the Future program and the state governments.

To explore the data, head to the Exploring for the Future Data Discovery Portal:

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