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Australia launches A$218M research JV as mineral deposit discoveries fall

South Australian Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan launched a A$218 million research organization to develop mineral exploration technologies.

The MinEx Cooperative Research Centre, headquartered in both Western Australia and South Australia, received A$50 million from the federal government and A$165 million in backing over the next 10 years from 34 companies including BHP Billiton Group, South32 Ltd., Anglo American PLC and Barrick Gold Corp.

MinEx will focus on developing technologies that unlock the potential of mineral deposits located under deep rock cover and on improving the productivity of drilling while at the same time collecting data, according to an Oct. 15 news release.

Chairman Chris Pigram said the center was launched because of the decline in the discovery of new mineral deposits, which puts the Australian economy at risk. Australia's share of global mineral exploration has fallen to 12.5%, from about 25% in the 1990s, according to the release.

MinEx plans to start the National Drilling Initiative, a collaboration of government geological information and technology among first-world countries, to start drilling in underexplored areas. The initiative will focus on coiled tubing drilling, which has the potential to save 20% of the conventional diamond drilling cost, according to the release.

MinEx CEO Andrew Bailey said, "Cheaper, safer and more efficient drilling technologies have the potential to increase our chance of finding new deposits, and decrease the cost of developing them — providing Australia with a more competitive and sustainable mining industry."