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International Conference on Airborne Electromagnetics, Manly Pacific Parkroyal, Sydney, 23 February 1998: opening.



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Australian Department of Primary Industries & Energy

 

Senator The Hon Warwick Parer

Federal Minister for Resources and Energy

 

Opening of the International Conference on Airborne Electromagnetics

Manly Pacific Parkroyal, Sydney, 23 February 1998

 

Thank y ou Brian

 

It is a real pleasure for me to be here today.

 

This international conference is focussing on the development of better airborne electromagnetic techniques for mineral exploration, geological mapping and ground-water studies.

 

It is therefore a very important meeting in context of the future of the Australian minerals industry, and most appropriate that it is being held in Australia.

 

As most of you here will know, the minerals industry makes a huge contribution to the Australian economy. In 1996/97, unprocessed and processed exports in the minerals and petroleum sectors totalled $35.9 billion. This was equivalent to 34 per cent of Australia's total exports of goods and services.

 

For these contributions to be maintained we need to ensure that Australia remains an attractive place to explore and invest, and that the technologies are available for efficient and effective exploration.

 

Mines are continually being exhausted and we need to find new mineral deposits for the industry to remain competitive in today's global market-place.

 

As you all know, mineral exploration is a high-risk/high-cost activity. Although the potential rewards are great, the chances of discovering a major viable mineral deposit are very small.

 

You don't find a Broken Hill, a Mount Isa or an Olympic Dam every month or even every year. Nevertheless, we have to find more economic mineral deposits and must maintain a healthy investment to search for them.

 

Industry recognises this and, in 1996/97, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately $1.2 billion was spent on mineral exploration. These costs are in addition to the even larger costs incurred to develop a proven prospect into a profitable and environmentally acceptable mine. These can amount to billions of dollars per deposit.

 

Returning to the costs of exploration; a large portion of these are spent on drilling, with a total of approximately 12,800 km of holes drilled in 1996/97. If drilling costs can be reduced by improving the methods for defining drilling targets then the industry will become more effective.

 

In Australia, this means being able to 'see through' the weathered surface layers that cover more than 70 per cent of the continent and identifying the prospective rocks beneath. The big challenge for industry is to be able to explore beneath the weathered layers.

 

Governments are helping in this challenge, by supporting organisations such as the Australian Geological Survey Organisation, to provide pre­competitive geoscience information on regional scales, and Cooperative Research Centres such as the CRC for Australian Mineral Exploration Technologies ( the main sponsor of this meeting ) to develop new technologies in areas where the weathered layers conceal the prospective rocks.

 

In fact, last month, when I chaired a Roundtable to develop strategies to improve the competitiveness of the Australian Gold Industry, the provision of pre-competitive information coupled with a strong research base was one of the key issues identified by the exploration industry as requiring government support.

 

For the benefit of the overseas visitors to this conference, and I am advised that there are delegates from 18 countries here today, I would like to say a few words about our CRC Program.

 

This Program is the responsibility of my colleague John Moore the Minister for Industry, Science and Tourism, but there are 10 CRCs in the Mining and Energy sector and these interact strongly with my portfolio.

 

Cooperative Research Centres bring together outstanding research groups from industry, research organisations, education institutions and relevant government agencies. They are involved in long term collaborative research and development efforts of substantial size and quality that contribute to national objectives.

 

The Government provides approximately $140 million a year to this Program and industry has already made commitments of more than $400 million for the duration of the CRC's current contracts.

 

One of the specific objectives of the CRC Program is to contribute to national objectives, including economic and social development, and the establishment if internationally competitive industry sectors through supporting long-term, high quality scientif ic and technological research.

 

This particular objective is central to the AMET Cooperative Research Centre, which has as its main research focus the development of core technologies, particularly airborne electromagnetic methods, for the discovery of ore bodies concealed by weathered layers.

 

This CRC was established, primarily as a result of an initiative from the Australian mineral exploration industry to expand electromagnetic geophysical research activities. In fact it is the only CRC involved in geophysical exploration for mineral deposits.

 

If the content of the program for this meeting over the next three days, and the numbers attending this conference are any guide, I think we can definitely say that this CRC has already made a considerable impact on research in the minerals exploration industry.

 

I would hope that as an outcome of the deliberations at this meeting we can look forward to the development and implementation of better ways to find new mineral deposits.

 

I would also like to say a few words about the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the other co-organiser of the conference. The ASEG has played a very important role in promoting the profession of exploration geophysics in Australia, since its formation 27 years ago.

 

With membership of 1,300, divided between the minerals and petroleum sectors, ASEG has brought together explorationists and promoted new technologies needed for exploration in Australia's difficult terranes.

 

Australia has a long tradition of being a test bed for new exploration technologies, and the professional strengths of our geoscientists are due in no small measure to the work of the ASEG, through its publications, conferences, and education and training programs.

 

The government recognises the need for top quality research efforts by such organisations as the AMET CRC, AGSO and CSIRO to ensure that our resource industries have ready access to new technologies, concepts and geoscience information, to underpin the Australian exploration industry. As a nation, if we are to remain world leaders in this field, we must find ways to invest in top quality geoscience.

 

I am sure that the contributions being made at this meeting will add significantly to this process. Airborne electromagnetics, the theme of this conference, is one of those important technologies that will be used to unlock the hidden wealth of this continent.

 

For the next four days, you will hear presentations on the newest developments in instrumentation, processing and interpretation, and discuss the next generation of exploration strategies.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Sydney - the home of the 2000 Olympics - and to Australia, a country who's name is intimately linked to the mining industry.

 

It is my pleasure to officially open this conference.

 

 

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