29th April 2020

As the resources sector grapples with the global challenges of COVID-19 and the need to maintain social licence to mine, the role the NSW Government plays in ensuring the ethical, environmentally and socially responsible development of our state’s resources into the future has never been stronger.

Guiding our work to support the NSW minerals industry is the NSW Minerals Strategy. This is the NSW Government’s blueprint for how we will work to unlock the state’s high-tech metals potential and grow our minerals industry. It outlines our committment to providing better data, improving communication, supporting a skilled workforce and delivering effective and efficient regulation and services.

In the 12 months since the strategy was launched, many important projects and programs have been started, and a number of key milestones met.

From the successful roll out of phase one of the biggest-ever evolution of titles management in the state to our attendance at geoscience events for the general public, our work has been big and small, but always with the intent to promote, inform and enable the people of NSW to enjoy the benefits of our resources sector.

PROMOTING INVESTMENT IN NSW

Mining, Exploration and Geoscience (MEG), formerly the Division of Resources and Geoscience, has been actively promoting the state as a destination of choice for investors as part of our goal to become the number one state for new exploration and resources investment in Australia.

Earlier this month, the NSW Government announced a further $2.2 million in drilling grants for exploration projects across regional NSW, bringing the amount committed under the New Frontiers Cooperative Drilling program to $6.2 million.

A record number of explorers applied for this third round of funding, with 22 exploration projects to receive up to $200,000 funding each. The majority of grantees will be seeking copper and/or gold in key areas in Central and Far Western NSW, reflecting the state’s high prospectivity for these minerals, as well as other target minerals such as cobalt, platinum, nickel, silver, lead, zinc, tin and tungsten.

Further afield, MEG’s Deputy Secretary, Michael Wright, attended the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention in March, the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada Convention (PDAC), where he launched the Future of Minerals in NSW Report. This comprehensive report outlines how NSW aims to be a responsible and ethical global supplier of minerals for a high-tech future. It looks at the high-tech mineral potential of the state, revealing why much of NSW’s significant mineral wealth is still to be discovered and how our minerals sector can provide a stable and responsible supply of in-demand metals, minerals and raw materials.

This report is now a key feature of the NSW Minerals Prospectus, our purpose-built online portal that provides explorers and project developers with an overview of the geological potential, existing and planned infrastructure investment for regional NSW, and the robust regulatory frameworks that make NSW a world-class minerals producer.

PROVIDING DATA AND INFORMATION

MEG continues to provide world-class geoscientific data to assist explorers, miners and the community. As part of the NSW Government’s 10-year, $16 million commitment to the MinEx Cooperative Research Centre’s (MinEx CRC) National Drilling Initiative, MEG conducted the largest ever airborne electromagnetic survey by area in NSW history across the Cobar region. Managed by the Geological Survey of NSW (GSNSW) the survey covered 19,145 square kilometers and early signs are promising that it will lead to the discovery of new metal deposits and possible sources of groundwater.  The raw data from the survey is set to be released in May, with interpretations to follow later in the year.

As part of our MinEx CRC activities in the Cobar region, our geologists have also been busy in the field, collecting water samples in collaboration with the Commonwealth Scientific and Iindustrial Research Organisation. The samples are now undergoing hydrogeochemical analysis, which can provide clues to the properties of the underlying rocks it has flowed through.

In November last year, the Deputy Premier and Minister Responsible for Resources John Barilaro announced the beginning of our ambitious, long-term project to piece together hundreds of thousands of pieces of new and historical geoscientific data from across government, to create a 3D map that could transform the way residents, businesses and developers see Sydney, and help support the safe and sustainable development of the city for generations to come. To date, more than 3,400 new reports, maps, plans and heritage records dating back to 1963 have been added to DIGS®, the NSW Government’s public online archive of geoscientific reports.

Similarly, our High-tech Metal Resources of NSW map is now available to download. Designed for use by explorers and the general public, the map shows areas across the state that currently produce, or have the potential to produce, high-tech metals including copper and gold, rare earth elements (REEs), scandium, platinum group elements (PGEs), cobalt, lithium, titanium and zirconium.

To ensure we continue to provide world-class geoscientific data, MEG also commissioned an independent review of the roles, products and services of the GSNSW to optimise the value of its activities to the state. This review is now nearing completion and is set to be published in the near future.

IMPROVING AUTHORISING SERVICES

To improve the administration of titles across the state, in December MEG launched Phase One of the biggest-ever evolution of titles management in the state’s history, a newTitles Management System (TMS). The new fit-for-purpose online platform is designed to be a one-stop shop for the end-to-end management of mining titles with greater visibility, transparency and accountability.

The system allows explorers and industry stakeholders to track progress of their newly lodged applications in real time, with a built-in audit mechanism to ensure transparency and accountability over decision-making. TMS allows secure payment of application fees by credit card, allows applications to be saved as a draft for later completion and automatically populates contact details, making the process more streamlined and user-friendly. Additional functionality is set to be added to the system in Phase Two of the system’s rollout this year.

ENSURING BEST PRACTICE REGULATION

To ensure best practice regulation of exploration and mining activities across the state, MEG consulted with industry stakeholders in December on a set of draft  Minimum Standards for Minerals Exploration. These standards will support and enable informed, consistent and transparent decision-making on exploration licence and assessment lease applications and will provide greater clarity and certainty to applicants and the community on how MEG assesses applications. Feedback from these sessions has now been incorporated, with the final guidelines expected to be release in the second quarter of 2020.

IMPROVING COMMUNICATION AND ENGAGEMENT

Prior to restrictions being placed on public gatherings due to COVID-19, MEG was also actively involved in a range of initiatives to connect with the community and share the wonders of geoscience and its importance to society.

Some of the most successful was our annual booth at the popular rural Field Day events in the Hunter Valley (Tocal, May 2019) and Central West (Orange, October 2019). Here we showcased a display NSW rocks, mineral and fossils, along with a range of information about the geology, and mineral and renewable resources of the state.

As part of National Science Week last August, we also opened the doors to our W.B. Clarke Geoscience Centre in Western Sydney as part of the Sydney Science Festival so the community could learn about the centre’s treasures and the world-class geoscience work being undertaken there.  And our Maitland office’s annual open days in November 2019 also drew a crowd, with visitors from the local community interacting with staff, geological displays and activities that help showcase the geological resources of the state, the work done by MEG and the information and advice we can provide.

Video of Resources and Geoscience Open Day in Maitland


SUPPORTING A SKILLED AND DIVERSE WORKFORCE

To encourage young people to consider mining as a career, MEG also provided support for a NSW Government skills preparation course that saw 25 high school students in Cobar gain real world skills for jobs in the local gold mines.

The NSW Minerals Strategy builds on this government’s response to the 2015 Minerals Industry Action Plan. For more information, visit www.resourcesandgeoscience.nsw.gov.au/nsw-minerals-strategy