UNSW has joined the Mineral Exploration Cooperative Research Centre (MinEx CRC) as a partner. The CRC is the world’s largest mineral exploration collaboration, bringing together 46 industry, government and research organisations.

The MinEx CRC has total funding of $220 million which includes $91 million in cash from the CRC program, industry and geological surveys. Its aim is to further our understanding of geology, mineral deposits and groundwater resources in areas where rocks aren’t exposed at Earth’s surface.

“UNSW has a long tradition of research and teaching in economic geology and mineral exploration. Our participation in the MinEx CRC will build on that history and expertise,” said Professor David Cohen at UNSW Science, the lead investigator for the University.

According to Prof. Cohen, two-thirds of Australia’s export income comes from minerals, and the mining sector generates over $200 billion or 10.5 per cent of our GDP, bringing much-needed employment to regional areas.

“The transition to a future low-carbon and high-tech economy is underpinned by the supply of critical minerals. That supply won’t materialise unless we find new deposits,” he said.

David Cohen

Professor David Cohen is UNSW lead investigator with the MinEx CRC. Photo: Supplied.

MinEx CRC CEO Andrew Bailey welcomed the University as a partner.

“Among other projects, UNSW is currently undertaking research to determine the effectiveness of pine needle geochemistry to detect underlying mineralisation in the Cobar Basin – and companies are showing strong interest,” Mr Bailey said.

The research project ‘Biogeochemical mapping of the Cobar Basin’, funded by the MinEx CRC, is being undertaken by PhD candidate Joe Schifano at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES). Mr Schifano has found the gold content of cypress pines to be very strong indicators of nearby gold deposits in the Cobar region, with some of the highest gold concentrations ever recorded in pine needles.

Among its various research programs, MinEx is developing the highly innovative coiled tube drilling technology that will deliver more productive, safer and environmentally friendly drilling in discovery and evaluation of mineral deposits.

A major challenge for the exploration sector is the development of techniques that can ‘see through’ thick sediment cover to detect mineral deposits contained within the underlying basement rocks. These techniques will assist and encourage more exploration in vast areas of Australia where such cover dominates the landscape.

"The MinEx CRC brings together the core Earth science disciplines – geologists, geochemists and geophysicists – and puts them in the same room as engineers, physicists and IT specialists to develop more efficient mineral exploration methods," said MinEx Chief Scientific Officer Dr David Giles.

Professor Cohen is President of the UNSW Academic Board and is also President of the Australian Geoscience Council.