The Asia Miner

SEP-OCT 2014

The ASIA Miner - Reporting Important Issues to Mining Companies in the Asia Pacific Region

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56 | ASIA Miner | September/October 2014 AUSTRALIA faces increasing global demand for its resources during a time of rising exploration costs, diminishing success rates and in- creased processing costs. The challenge for industry, research bodies and government agencies is clear - the focus needs to move from domestic competition to domestic collaboration, so that Australia can become more competitive internationally. Simply put, Australia needs to step up and be more innovative by bringing together the best scientists and world-class research infra- structure with industry and government to solve tomorrow's resources challenges today. The National Resource Sciences Precinct, or NRSP, does exactly that. It is a CSIRO, Curtin University and UWA collaboration connecting the world's best researchers with industry and government to tackle some of the most complex challenges facing the resources industry. At a launch in April this year, the NRSP announced Transfeld Services' CEO and managing director Graeme Hunt as its inaugural chair. "There have been areas of collaboration between the three institutions before but there hasn't been an umbrella body that strives to make sure there is alignment and transparency about what each of them is trying to do," says Graeme Hunt. "Between its foundation partners, the NRSP hosts more than 400 FTE research staff all addressing the future needs of the global resources industries. It is supported by millions of dollars worth of advanced resources-oriented research infrastructure." This pooling of expertise centred in Perth, Western Australia, capital- izes on the concentration of multinational resource companies located in this recognized mining hub, as well as leading research capabilities. The location is also well-situated for increased engagement with the growing Asian market. The new collaborative approach of the NRSP will see an increase in large-scale infrastructure projects developed in Perth and around Australia while reducing duplication of funding and effort for resource science initiatives. "The foundation partners, under the auspices of the NRSP, have al- ready attracted more than $50 million in funding for research projects focused on the resources sector. The projects include an Advanced Resource Characterization Facility (ARCF) and a ground-breaking Distal Footprints project that aims to improve mineral exploration to discover mineral wealth in remote regions that have previously been diffcult to search," Graeme Hunt says. With the support of a $12.4 million grant from the Science and Indus- try Endowment Fund (SIEF), the NRSP is developing an unparalleled ARCF which will increase the quantity and quality of geoscientifc in- formation gained from drilling. This information will form the basis for higher ore deposit discovery rates, and earlier, more accurate resource defnition in the minerals industry. The ARCF will comprise three cutting-edge research tools not co-lo- cated anywhere else in the world - a new NanoSIMS at UWA under lead researcher Professor Matt Kilburn; a Geosciences Atom Probe at Curtin University under lead researcher Professor Steven Reddy; and a Maia Mapper developed by and housed at CSIRO under lead re- searcher Dr Robert Hough. The new Nano-scale Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer (NanoSIMS) will enable researchers to understand large-scale phenomena, such as ev- idence of mineral deposits, through the chemical processes occurring at the nano-scale. "The NanoSIMS is highly automated and versatile. It can be used for a broad range of applications, including mineral-fuid interactions and determining trace elements of ore deposits in rock," Graeme Hunt says . Traditionally, mass spectrometry requires a large volume of material to be extracted from a sample but the NanoSIMS can examine smaller samples and map up to seven elements simultaneously. The Geosciences Atom Probe provides high-resolution three-dimen- sional characterization of atom distribution in very small volumes of nat- ural materials. The technology has previously been used in the felds of materials science and nanotechnology but the application to geosci- ences is in its infancy. "In fact, this will be the frst machine of its kind to be dedicated to resource characterization in Australia," Graeme Hunt says. Recent technological advances have enabled it to be applied to geo- logical materials, to examine changes in the composition over incredibly small (nanometre) distances. The Distal Footprints project will focus on the challenge of uncovering mineral wealth in the unique Australian landscape. Solving tomorrow's industry challenges today The Atom Probe at Curtin University is the frst machine of its kind to be dedicat- ed to resource characterization in Australia.

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