Northern Australia - Leads in World-Class Mineral Deposits: Land Access, Infrastructure and Government Policy Support are Vital Keys to the Future

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 0
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1994
Northern Australia leads in world-class mineral deposits' is a bold statement. First there must be a starting point. Land north of the Tropic of Capricorn (23¦ 26' 5") will be regarded as Northern Australia covering nearly 40 per cent of the land surface of Australia. As opposed to land south of the Tropic of Capricorn, it should be regarded as Tropical Northern Australia and for the sake of brevity, (TNA) Refer Figure 1. Apart from the tyranny of distance from centres of power and population in the temperate zone, it suffered in the past from the belief that the tropics are unsuited for European workers and from the lack of infrastructure. Outstanding mineral deposits of iron, base metals, gold and diamonds, discovered and developed in the past three decades, provided the substance for the title. There are many world-class mines producing and there are mineral deposits neutralised through Government policy. TNA can maintain its lead in world-class mineral deposits provided Government policy will stop partitioning the land and decreasing that available for exploration. Let's look at what we have that is world-class. In Western TNA iron ore deposits at Paraburdoo, Mt Tom Price, Marandoo, gold at Telfer, diamonds at Argyle. In central TNA uranium at Ranger and Jabiluka, lead-zinc-silver at McArthur River, gold at the Tanami, manganese at Groote Eylandt and bauxite at Gove. In eastern TNA Mt Isa, Hilton, Century zinc-lead, bauxite at Weipa, gold at Kidston, Mt Leyshon, magnesite at Yamba and coal mines in the Bowen Basin. Those mines or deposits stand out yet are only an indication of the numerous lesser mines and of mineral deposits depending for development on market demand and/or changes in Government policy, eg 'The Three Mines' policy. Very large areas of mineral rich structures in the western, central and eastern parts of TNA are concealed below flat lying comparatively young unmineralised sediments. The Great Artisan basin sediments in eastern TNA can and do host oil shale and non metallic minerals. Nearly 40 per cent of western TNA is covered by the Great Sandy Desert. The Canning Track, with a series of 54 wells, was constructed by surveyor Alfred Canning in 1908 - 1910 with great difficulty. It extends 1700 kilometres from Halls Creek in the north to the gold town of Wiluna in the south, through the Great and Little Sandy Deserts. Gold explorers are following favourable structures extending to the north east below the sediments and sand hills covering the track. Half of central TNA's mineral structures are concealed by the Tanami desert and the Cretaceous sediments covering the pastoral regions of the Barkly Tableland and the Daly Waters to Top Springs pastoral areas. The Georgina Basin in the south eastern section is part of the concealment.
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