Accelerated Geoscience Program

Economic recovery program 2020–21
Date: Friday, 31 July 2020

The Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) intends to reprioritise its 2020–21 work program because of the impact of current travel and operational restrictions. By using GSWA’s extensive, pre-competitive geoscience datasets and outstanding rock and paleontology collection, the organisation will aid economic recovery and stimulate the exploration industry. GSWA will deliver new interpretive datasets across all areas of geoscience, in key regions of the State where work is currently underway. This will accelerate understanding of the region's geology and mineral prospectivity.

At the same time, GSWA will continue to provide its key statutory and regulatory business functions and other core projects critical for economic recovery. It is anticipated that no additional funding will be required to facilitate the modified work program. Most resources can be found within GSWA, although some staff may need to move to new areas temporarily. GSWA will provide all staff with an opportunity for upskilling within the division.

Modified work program

The modified GSWA work program for 2020–21 will be structured around two main streams. These streams will create and add value to the resources industry through data-driven exploration. The two streams are:

  1. Accelerated Geoscience program — a program of accelerated geoscience data synthesis and delivery, with new or emerging mineral potential in areas of critical mineral prospectivity.
  2. Business Improvement program — a series of short-term, big-win, data synthesis projects that will increase mineral prospectivity across the State. Pre-existing geoscience datasets will be integrated for delivery in ways which can be used by exploration companies to generate new exploration targets.

Accelerated Geoscience program

The accelerated geoscience program will see dedicated geoscientists from across GSWA concentrate their efforts on four main projects:

  • Publication of existing data into GIS layers
  • Data integration and analyses — the Yilgarn Craton
  • Statewide critical minerals prospectivity study
  • Energy systems including petroleum, geothermal, and carbon capture and storage.

The results will be published online as GIS layers available in current GSWA systems, and within three, standalone Geological Exploration Packages (GEP). These will be a Southwest Yilgarn GEP, an East Yilgarn GEP and the Critical Minerals GEP. These standalone packages will facilitate use for all levels of technical competency and software, from prospectors to Tier 1 companies.

Publication of existing data into GIS layers

This project will deliver previously non-digital datasets as new, spatial datasets. The outcome will improve understanding of the prospectivity of the State which will feed into other projects in the Accelerated Geoscience program.

Data integration and analyses — the Yilgarn Craton

The Yilgarn Craton is one of Western Australia’s most prospective regions and contains significant deposits of gold, nickel, lithium, copper–zinc, iron ore, tantalum, aluminium and uranium. Recent high-grade gold and nickel discoveries in the craton’s far eastern (Gruyere, Tropicana, Neale) and southwestern margins (Julimar), have shown that these two poorly exposed and geologically not well-understood regions are likely to be as prospective as the craton’s interior (i.e. Eastern Goldfields). Despite both regions being covered by a thick blanket of regolith, GSWA holds a vast amount of geoscientific data relating to the bedrock and regolith geology with the potential for uncovering significant, new mineral deposits.

The minerals industry is increasingly aware that the new era of Tier 1 deposits is likely to be under deep cover. Working to the UNCOVER plan, the Accelerated Geoscience program will deliver new integrated geoscience datasets for the southwestern and far eastern Yilgarn Craton margins. The program will incorporate results of ongoing work in the Eastern Goldfields, and perform new analyses on archived samples, which will accelerate understanding of these regions and will define new areas of high mineral prospectivity.

Statewide critical minerals prospectivity study

Both the State and Federal Governments have outlined a list of minerals that are deemed critical for emerging high-tech applications and which are considered essential for economic and industrial development over the next decade. Western Australia is well placed to capitalise on increasing demand for critical minerals as we transition globally to low-carbon technologies. Knowledge of the geological addresses where these deposits are likely to be located not only reveals emerging exploration plays but allows the government the foresight to manage land for strategic industrial purposes such as downstream processing.

The aim of this project is to catalogue the known critical mineral resources of the State to better understand the mineral systems in which they occur and the associated alteration systems. These genetic associations can then be explored in existing GSWA datasets to provide a series of prospectivity maps for individual critical minerals. The results aim to stimulate and increase investment in the critical minerals sector by defining new exploration targets and releasing new parts of the State to exploration.

Energy systems

This project will investigate the prospectivity of the State’s potential energy resources and will include low-carbon technology and geothermal projects.

The petroleum industry has been one of the most affected by COVID-19 having a simultaneous supply and demand shock caused by an oil price war that coincided with the start of the pandemic. This project aims to produce a graphic summary of the State’s well data in addition to other GIS layers that will directly benefit petroleum industry exploration. Other initiatives relate to decarbonisation such as CO2 geosequestration.

Business Improvement program

This program aims to streamline our digital business by synthesising and publishing key, spatial digital datasets to enhance the mineral prospectivity of the State.

For more information, contact Michele Spencer (michele.spencer@dmirs.wa.gov.au).