Summary

Geoscience Australia is a proscribed agency of the Australian Government, and has been acquiring precompetitive geophysics over the Australian continent and making it available to industry and researchers for over fifty years. Geophysical methods are especially important for effective exploration in Australia because the ancient landscape has been deeply weathered and fresh rocks are concealed beneath a thick layer of weathered material, referred to as regolith. The Onshore Energy Security Program is Geoscience Australia’s latest precompetitive program and is designed to reduce risk in exploration for Australia’s onshore hydrocarbon, uranium, thorium, and geothermal energy resources. The program will acquire and deliver precompetitive geophysical and geochemical data as well as geological interpretations and other value-added products for the exploration industry.

Introduction

Pre-competitive geoscience is a strategic asset for assessing and reducing risk in mineral and energy exploration. Exploration differs from other business processes because the outcomes are highly uncertain. Investment in exploration carries a high degree of risk which is often exacerbated by a lack of information and knowledge pertaining to areas being considered for targeting. Perceived prospectivity is usually the main factor influencing the decision to explore in a certain country or region, and this can only be assessed by a robust scientific understanding of the geological processes that may have been active in the area (Powell, 2007). Such understanding is generally based upon thorough analysis and interpretation of good quality data-sets. Mining and energy companies cannot internalise the benefit of such geoscientific analysis until they have taken up exploration permits or tenements. Thus companies will not usually commit large amounts of exploration dollars and geologist’s time to regional-scale data acquisition and interpretation for area selection (Powell, 2007). This is especially true for under-explored ‘frontier areas’ which have sparse data and are often poorly constrained geologically. Exploration is now an international business with companies taking a global perspective when deciding where they will obtain best return for their exploration dollars. Provision of high-quality pre-competitive geoscience data by Australian Governments allows these companies to assess the risk in regional prospectivity without committing to expensive data acquisition. It also promotes Australia as a sound destination for exploration dollars in a highly competitive global market.

Onshore Energy Security Program

The Onshore Energy Security Program (OESP) is a fiveyear program announced in August 2006 designed to reduce risk in exploration and support development of Australia’s onshore energy resources. The program delivers pre-competitive geophysical and geochemical data as well as geological interpretations and other value added products for the exploration industry. Before geoscience Australia undertook the OESP, existing data-sets and scientific publications were reviewed for their relevance and impact on energy prospectivity at a continental, regional, and province scale. The program outputs are high quality basic data, maps, 3D models and other predictive products that can be considered by companies during area selection for energy commodity exploration.

New radiometric map of Australia

Geoscience Australia and State Government Geological Surveys have been collecting airborne radiometric data over Australia since the 1950’s.

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