The latest Queensland mineral exploration scorecard has focused attention on the North West's importance to the state, especially to new economy minerals.
The Queensland Exploration Council released its 10th annual report this week found COVID-19 has not halted exploration and with commodity prices rising they were "looking into 2021 with optimism and can foresee a year where Queensland exploration continues to thrive."
The report found minerals exploration in Queensland continues to expand, with major focus on the North West and Queensland's mineral exploration expenditure was $403.4 million in 2019-20, increasing 29% from 2018-19
The report said North West Queensland was home to one of the most prospective mineral regions in the world.
"The region has significant potential to provide not only base metals like copper, zinc and lead, but also critical minerals used for batteries and other new technologies and defence systems,' the report said.
"As global demand for critical minerals increases, the North West's rich prospectivity could establish Queensland as a key region for exploration investment."
The report said Queensland was developing a critical minerals industry, with initiatives targeting technology and battery minerals exploration targets such as Rare Earth Elements, lithium, cobalt and tungsten.
The state government awarded seven companies grants of up to $200,000 towards New Economy Minerals exploration and to a further twenty-five companies in July 2020 mostly in the North West. In 2019-20, Queensland saw an increase in tenure applications from the previous year with a particularly large increase in activity in the North West.
Geological Survey Queensland is now in its final year of its $27 million, four-year Strategic Resources Exploration Program with activities to support resources exploration in north-west Queensland, including a range of pre-competitive data to support mineral exploration, a search for new gas resources in frontier basins, and modernisation of government geoscience data systems. It also includes targeted support towards drilling and non-drilling activities under the Government's Collaborative Exploration Initiative.
According to the latest exploration data 2020-21 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, minerals exploration expenditure increased by by two percent year-on-year to reach $412 million.
Queensland Exploration Council Chair Kim Wainwright said the stand-out areas of exploration expenditure for Queensland minerals were gold, which experienced a 43 percent jump, and copper which rose 20 percent compared to 2019-20.
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