Mining in South Australia

“We in South Australia are pro-business, pro-jobs and pro-mining”
– Mike Rann, Premier of South Australia.

Premier Rann declared recently that mining in South Australia will become as important an industry to South Australia as it is to Western Australia.

On 27 March 2006 the Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian think-tank, announced that South Australia had been awarded 6th place out of 64 on its Mineral Potential Index.

In 2005 the value of South Australia’s mineral exports was $1.4 billion – an increase of 50% from the previous year – and the value of mineral exploration reached almost $100 million – a 79% increase on the previous year.

South Australia’s mineral resources are still under explored. One of the largest barriers is the significant overburden encountered in the State. However, advanced technology, an increase in commodity prices and government support is encouraging and assisting the mining industry to discover the immense opportunities in the State.

One of the targets in the South Australian Strategic Plan is to treble the value of South Australia’s export income to $25 billion by 2013. The mineral industry will play a major role in achieving this goal.

The South Australian Strategic Plan – “A vision for South Australia’s future”, – aims to make South Australia a favoured mineral investment destination for private investment by 2010, with exploration expenditure targeted to almost treble to $100 million by 2007 (a level almost reached now), and minerals production to reach $3 billion by 2020, with a further $1 billion worth of minerals processing by that time.

To assist industry to achieve these goals the South Australian Government’s $22.5 million Plan for Accelerating Growth (PACE) program dedicated to encouraging mineral exploration has been very successful. PACE focuses on cooperation with industry including a collaborative drilling program providing 50% of the direct drilling costs to approved projects and providing companies with geo-scientific data. South Australia’s share of national exploration spending is 8.8% and as of last year the State had 522 mineral exploration licences.

The rising demand for uranium is increasing world market prices. South Australia currently has two uranium mines, Olympic Dam and Beverley. The operators of Honeymoon, a potential third mine, have recently applied for a commercial mining licence. Australia is estimated to have up to 40% of the world’s uranium resources, and South Australia the world’s largest unmined reserves. Premier Rann has publicly stated that he believes a change to Labor’s no new mines policy is inevitable.

One of the more interesting mining developments is the potential commercialisation of Hot Dry Rock derived from geothermal resources that occur naturally in the State. As an alternative to carbon based energy there is scope in the future for geothermal to be a significant contributor to Australia’s electricity supplies. Geodynamics, Petratherm, Greenrock Energy and Scopenergy are experiencing encouraging results from their exploratory drilling programs in this arena.

Skill shortages in the mining industry have been identified as an area of concern. The Adelaide. Make the Move campaign was recently the prime exhibitor at the 2006 National Careers and Employment Expo in Melbourne as part of the South Australian Government strategy to attract more skilled workers across the border.

Key mining developments in South Australia include the following:

  • Olympic Dam, a BHP Billiton gold, copper, silver and uranium mine, is proposing a $7 billion expansion. As one of the biggest mining projects in the world it is expected to create 23,000 jobs during the expansion phase
  • Prominent Hill, an Oxiana Limited copper and gold mine, is expected to reach full production by the end of 2008, employing 700 people during construction and 400 people once in full production
  • Challenger, a Dominion gold mine, has undergone a major expansion moving from an open cut to an underground mine increasing production by 46%
  • Beverley, a Heathgate Resources uranium mine, is the largest in situ leach mine in the world. Recent exploration has indicated potential development of the mine
  • Jacinth and Ambrosia are Iluka Resources mineral sands discoveries in the Eucla Basin, a potential resource in excess of 8.2 million tonnes
  • Kanmantoo, a Hillgrove Resources potential copper and gold mine in the Adelaide Hills
  • Angas Project, a Terramin Australia potential zinc, lead, silver and gold mine in the Adelaide Hill