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Boost for Mineral Exploration in MBIE Funding Round

Boost for Mineral Exploration in MBIE Funding Round

Mineral exploration received a boost this week with the government investing $4 million in a four-year research project to improve the knowledge and understanding of New Zealand’s gold deposits.

The project will be led by GNS Science in collaboration with Auckland, Waikato and Otago universities, and it will be supported by mining companies which will supply some of their exploration data at no cost.

It will be the first time all of New Zealand’s key onshore minerals scientists have collaborated as a single nationwide research group. Overseas research associates will also contribute to the project.

The project will receive $1 million-a-year in funding for the next four years.

It will study the geological factors that control the location of known gold deposits (why are they where they are) so geologists can use this information to identify other prospective areas. It will identify features within a prospect area that help direct exploration toward concentrations of gold.

This information will encourage new exploration, increase the chances of discovering new gold deposits, and also reduce the financial risks for the industry, said project leader Tony Christie of GNS Science.

The research will have a high international profile and the resulting exploration models will influence gold exploration methods worldwide and help attract overseas investment in New Zealand mineral exploration.

As well as facilitating the finding of new prospects, the project could extend the life of existing mines by identifying fresh target areas.

Some of the gold deposits have significant quantities of silver, and the research could also highlight potential for other metals such as tungsten, used in steel making, and antimony which is used in batteries and bearings. In addition, copper, lead, and zinc could also be found, Dr Christie said.

As part of the project, scientists would work with Maori and councils so they could have a better understanding of the resources and development potential of their jurisdictions.

New Zealand exports about 10 tonnes of gold bullion each year earning about $670 million.

A new world-class gold deposit could be worth about $250 million-a-year for the life of the mine, or about $8 billion over a typical mine lifespan of about 30 years.

Between two and four of these world-class deposits are discovered in the Western world each year. Typically they consist of an exceptionally large tonnage of economically recoverable gold.

“We estimate a benefit-cost ratio of up to 2500 to one over 30 years if this initiative leads to the discovery of a world-class gold deposit,” Dr Christie said.

“New Zealand’s mineral potential is significantly higher than current production would indicate. The Government has recognised that there is an opportunity for the industry to make a bigger contribution to the economy.”


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