Coal resource base grows

IN good news for Australia’s mining industry, resource levels increased for key commodities, including coal, copper, gold and iron ore, in 2008. But Geoscience Australia says most of these additional resources came from known areas rather than new discoveries.
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Drilling at Belvedere.

Angie Tomlinson

In a survey of Australia’s economic demonstrated resource of 2008, the government body reported that 18 commodities saw an increase in resources which could actually be mined.

Chief of Geoscience Australia’s minerals division, James Johnson, said the increase in resources came despite an increase in production in 2008, meaning resource growth was outstripping mining rates.

But much of this growth is coming from known areas and not from major, world-class mineral discoveries.

“There have been very few world-class discoveries in Australia in the past two decades and the inventory has been sustained largely through delineation of additional resources in known mineral fields,” Johnson said.

Recoverable economic demonstrated resources in 2008 of black coal increased 0.8% to 39.2 gigatonnes due mainly to significant increases at Mt Arthur, Belvedere, Blackwater, Saraji and Wandoan.

New resources were announced at Cherry Tree Hill and Washpool, while significant decreases occurred at Kevin’s Corner and Peak Downs.

The recoverable inferred resources increased 9.2% to 66.7Gt thanks to increases at Warkworth, Alpha, Blackwater, Kevin’s Corner, North Alpha, South Alpha and Wandoan.

Inferred resources were included for the first time at Oaklands North, Arcadia, Arcturus, Dingo West, Red Hill (Aquila) and Washpool. In the five years to December 2008 recoverable inferred resources increased 26% to 66.7Gt.

Johnson said that with increasing competition around the world in the resources industry, Australia’s position as a top mineral producer relied on continued investment in exploration.

The survey found that Australian mineral exploration spending in 2007-08 rose by 43.6% to a record $2.461 billion, of which 41.1% was spent on the search for new deposits.

For coal, exploration spend increased in 2008 from $192.6 million to $276.3 million. Expenditure in Queensland was $161.7 million and $93.7 million in NSW.

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