Project launched August 2022.

The Geological Survey of South Australia’s Critical Minerals South Australia project is looking at the potential for critical mineral elements across the state. An economic study will be completed to understand the value chain demand and supply, assessment of barriers, opportunities, and drivers at state level along with existing and potential market advantages.

Critical minerals, sometimes referred to as strategic minerals, are essential to national security, modern economic development and a green energy future. A mineral or metal is considered critical if its supply to industry is at risk. Efforts across the entire supply chain are ramping up throughout Australia, with support from federal and state governments. South Australia is committed to a continued drive for alternate energy sources including renewables and supports exploration and mining across critical minerals and other metals to support a low carbon economy.

Australia currently lists 26 critical minerals, with high-purity alumina and silicon added earlier in 2022 (see July 2022 news article).

South Australia has significant global and national resources of critical minerals including 66% of Australia’s graphite resources and the state hosts the world’s largest zircon mine at Jacinth-Ambrosia. In addition, our frontier provinces are prospective for critical minerals including cobalt, rare earth elements, halloysite and magnesium. With the growing global demand for critical minerals, developing a full understanding of South Australia’s prospectivity is vital.

The Critical Minerals project can be thought of in terms of 3 main pillars (Fig 1):

  1. What we know already. A statewide stocktake to review and compile the nature of mineral systems that produce economic grades of each defined critical mineral. A report will be generated for download on completion.
  2. What we missed. A detailed characterisation and full elemental geochemical analysis of key drillholes from the South Australia Drill Core Reference Library collection. New precompetitive datasets highlighting discovery opportunities at a state and regional level will be generated for release.
  3. What we threw out. An assessment of the potential for critical mineral recovery from mine waste, which feeds into the circular economy by offering an opportunity to rehabilitate the environment whilst reprocessing stockpiles on the surface.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1 Critical Minerals South Australia project structure.

The first deliverable will be a report reviewing the prospectivity of mine waste where the team has ranked around 1,000 mines sites to high grade for future sampling and analysis (Fig 2). This work was done in conjunction with our research partner, the University of Queensland (Sustainable Minerals Institute).

Figure 2

Figure 2 (a) Critical mineral mine site locations, South Australia. (b) Ranked results to be used to high grade sites for future sampling of critical mineral mine sites. (From the University of Queensland and Geological Survey of South Australia 2022 joint report – Secondary prospectivity of South Australia’s mine waste: review)

Check out the Critical Minerals South Australia webpage to keep in the loop on new releases.

Access the commodity resource, exploration and production dashboard on the South Australian Resources Information Gateway (SARIG).

– Bronwyn Camac, December 2022

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