MinEx CRC – GSWA NDI Drilling campaigns

The vision of the National Drilling Initiative (NDI) is to drill multiple holes in a region to map the regional geology and architecture, and define the potential for mineral systems in 3D.

‘The Gap’ is the informal name given to the remote interior of Western Australia where basement is covered by younger basins such as the Canning and Officer Basins; GSWA–NDI project areas shown in red

The Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) is a key participant in MinEx CRC, the world’s largest mineral exploration collaboration bringing together industry, government and research organizations. A major project of the MinEx CRC is the NDI, which manages and delivers drilling programs in multiple case study areas across Australia. A range of drilling methods may be used in these programs; however, it is intended that the NDI will take advantage of new, low-cost coiled tubing (CT) drilling technology and associated sensing in order to maximize the number of drillholes and the volume of data collected.

These new technologies are ideal for geological investigations in remote greenfield regions. A key frontier region in Western Australia is the central and eastern deserts. This region, informally named 'The Gap', consists of several basement terranes and craton margins that are covered by younger basins such as the Canning and Officer Basins. Through the Exploration Incentive Scheme (EIS), the Western Australian government wishes to increase the geological understanding of these potentially prospective, but poorly understood areas. For this reason, GSWA and MinEx CRC will be undertaking two NDI projects in the ‘The Gap’, namely the Paterson and the Far East Yilgarn projects.

Paterson NDI campaign

Lithological subdivisions, structures and mineralisation in the Paterson Orogen, Western Australia. All data can be viewed and interrogated on the GeoVIEW.WA online platform

A significant exploration frontier is the Paterson region, an area prospective for sediment-hosted copper and other base metal resources that are critical for the transition to a net-zero carbon emissions future. Understanding the processes that form copper deposits within sedimentary sequences is crucial to future exploration in the region and the State. However, a key challenge in mineral exploration, especially in greenfield regions and under cover, is the transition from regional to deposit scale across to the camp scale. At the camp scale, it can be difficult to detect a mineral system unambiguously, although sufficient predictive datasets to help localize drilling targets are also generally lacking. The Paterson NDI campaign will directly address this challenge.

The project area is located within the Yeneena Basin in the northwest Paterson Orogen, east of the town of Marble Bar. Drilling will focus on the broader Nifty copper mine camp region, about 30 km southwest of the Telfer copper–gold deposit. The campaign has been designed to target the mineral system at distances up to 25 km from the Nifty ore body, in areas with identified data gaps. It is anticipated that the proposed drilling will commence in July 2023 and last for about 4–6 weeks.

The proposed drilling program will involve drilling up to 10 stratigraphic drillholes to a depth of about 500 m each. The targets are intended to sample a range of cover and basement geology and mineralization, and to intersect distal alteration facies related to the deposition of the Nifty mineral system. Physical samples and data acquired during drilling will provide new geological, geochemical, petrophysical and geochronological datasets, which will be used to develop models and interpretations of undercover mineral systems. The outcomes of the campaign will benefit the region, Western Australia and Australia, and will support better-informed planning decisions by the government and exploration decisions by industry. Additional information and data will be released as it becomes available.

Location of proposed CT drillholes (yellow crosses) with respect to the Nifty copper deposit (mining lease AM 7000271). The locations of diamond drillholes (DD) that are on loan for this work are also shown (green triangles)

Far East Yilgarn NDI campaign

The purpose of the Far East Yilgarn NDI campaign is to improve geological knowledge in the Far East Yilgarn area of Western Australia, and to test the CT drilling techniques for stratigraphic drilling in covered geological terranes. This work is part of a long-running, precompetitive geoscience program that will improve understanding of the mineral, energy and groundwater potential of the region. The program will focus on the collection of physical samples (i.e. drillcore and chips) and downhole data (e.g. wireline geophysical data, semi-automated scanned geochemistry) from a series of stratigraphic drillholes into the Archean Yilgarn Craton crystalline basement rocks in the Far East Yilgarn region. The drillholes will be at least 500 m deep, with the possibility of testing the 1000 m CT rig. Drilling is tentatively scheduled to begin in Q4 of 2023; additional information and data will be released as it becomes available.


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