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Wednesday, 8 May 1968

Dr Patterson asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice:

What is the best estimated value at current export prices of the estimated mineral reserves of (a) bauxite at Weipa and Gove, (b) coal at

Moura and Blackwater, (c) manganese at Groote Eylandt and (d) iron ore at Pilbara?

Mr Fairbairn - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The accepted definition of ore is material which is mineable at a profit at present prices and conditions of technology or future prices and technology which can be reasonably estimated or forecast. However, the assessment of ore reserves is a complex matter, as they are a function of many factors, including tonnage and grades, amenability or otherwise to low cost mining and concentrating methods; geographic location relative to transport facilities and ports, power and water supplies; size of local and overseas markets; prices, etc. These factors are changing' constantly and are affected by technological developments in a wide range of fields. Estimates of ore reserves are neither irreducible minima (because a deposit on being opened up may prove to be smaller or of lower grade than the estimate) nor are they attempts at estimates of the total quantity of ore in a deposit. In decreasing order of precision, the names given to the categories of ore reserves are measured or proved, indicated or probable, inferred or possible.

It follows from the definitions that a change in ore reserves can eventuate from a change in price level, or an improvement in technology, without any mining or further testing being done. A recent example is the Savage River iron ore deposit which, 20 years ago, would not have been considered iron ore at all. It also follows that a mine can have approximately constant ore reserves year after year, in spite of mining the orebody because only sufficient new openings are made to prove additional reserves equal to the quantity mined.

The following details, with the above precautionary notes, are presented for the honourable member's information:

(a)   Bauxite

CO Weipa - proved ore reserves are only about SOO million tons, but as much as 2,000 million tons may eventually be proved to be commercial grade bauxite. The current average value for exports of bauxite cannot be derived from export statistics as quantity figures are no longer published, (ii) There are no up-to-date published figures on reserves or values for Gove bauxite available.

(i)   Measured reserves for the- MouraKianga field are about 70 million tons, indicated reserves 250 million tons and inferred reserves 1380 million tons. These reserves contain both strong coking and soft coking coal.

(ii)   Measured and indicated reserves at Blackwater are estimated at 303 million tons.

The average value of exports of black coal from Queensland, derived from export statistics, was $8.70 per ton during 1966-67.

(c)   Reserves of manganese at Groote Eylandt are reported in the press as in excess of 50 million tons but there has been nothing published as to the grade and/or variability of grade of this ore. There are no published figures for exports specifically from Groote Eylandt but the 1966-67 Overseas Trade Bulletin shows that 99,717 tons of manganese ore valued at $2.7m were shipped from the Northern Territory for overseas destinations in that financial year.

(d)   Measured and indicated iron ore reserves at Pilbara - grade of 50% iron content or over are estimated to exceed 2,000 million tons, and about 13,000 million tons inferred. Average export value derived from export statistics, was $US8.48 per ton in 1966-67.

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