Streetscape - Photograph courtesy of Serendigity

Exploring for the Future is a world leading program, delivering public geoscientific data and the evidence required to attract future investment in resource exploration and development.

The Exploring for the Future program has changed the way we understand the Earth beneath northern Australia, and will be instrumental to delivering on the key purpose of the Australian National Resources Statement. The evidence gathered through the program is already translating into real impacts that build towards a smarter, more connected future. The findings have been able to significantly reduce the technical risk of exploration in underexplored areas and will ensure projects can plan for minimum impact on the environment and maximum return on investment.

This work is driving new infrastructure, creating jobs, and building local economies to ensure the prosperity of future generations of Australians. The enhanced understanding of our  resources also supports calls for infrastructure investment, including new ports and roads, which will open more of inland Australia.

The program is already demonstrating a range of benefits, especially in regional Australia, including:

  • economic benefits, with the potential to generate up to $2.5 billion (or 56 times the amount invested) from just 3 projects from the first 4 years of the program (an independent review by ACIL Allen)
  • the program is advancing the Mineral Potential Mapper. ACIL Allen Consulting assessed the benefits of Geoscience Australia’s Mineral Potential Mapper based on the assumption that the Gonneville deposit at Julimar becomes a mine. Every dollar invested by Government into the Mineral Potential Mapper released in 2016 has been estimated by ACIL Allen to generate at least one thousand dollars and as much as one and half thousand dollars of additional benefits to the economy
  • new and increased investment, particularly in regional economies
  • increased tenement uptake with over 275,000 km2 attributed to precompetitive geoscience from 2016, including over 170,000 km2 as a direct result of the program across Australia. The majority of this investment is in ‘greenfield’ areas that have previously had limited exploration (between Tennant Creek and Mount Isa)
  • provision of vital information to inform agricultural developments and increase the knowledge and understanding of natural resources
  • support of 310 jobs for contractors and small businesses in the first 4 years of the program, providing an immediate boost to regional economies.

We have inspired a new generation of data acquisition methods and innovative tools for data delivery, placing Australia at the forefront of resources geoscience. 

The program continues to build on current findings to provide consistent national coverage and generate positive outcomes with long-term impacts. 

Read our case studies that showcase our work, community stories, and emerging benefits and impacts of the Exploring for the Future program.  

Increased investment

Providing both new data and findings to government, industry and communities have already led to improvements and investment in these regions.

Renewed investment in the region between Tennant Creek and Mount Isa represents the first of many investments in ‘greenfield’ areas that have not been previously explored. The area has seen a significant increase in the number of minerals exploration tenements since 2018, with approximately 35 companies in the region have acknowledged the contribution of Exploring for the Future data, covering an area of around 179,000 kmas of May 2022.

Additionally, oil and gas company Santos Limited has invested up to $95 million to explore tenements in the South Nicholson region northwest of Mount Isa. The investment is a result of providing the information needed to better understand the region’s potential for energy exploration.

In 2018, large multinational resources company Anglo American PLC returned to mineral exploration in Australia after a 12-year hiatus, taking up exploration tenements south of Mount Isa based on new data and scientific knowledge.

Learn more about new exploration tenements

Social impact

Groundwater assessment work is already leading to better outcomes for remote communities in the region between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs. New data is being used to plan new and sustainable water sources for those communities and is pointing to the prospect of new water sources for agriculture and horticulture in the regions.

Our targeted investigation and analysis of groundwater potential conducted across the Upper Burdekin region, west of Townsville, is assisting the Queensland Government with better resource management in the region.  Combining new groundwater and surface water data has led to a greater understanding of the connected groundwater and surface water systems, which will also lead to more informed decisions on future developments.

“Thanks to Geoscience Australia led groundwater research in the Townsville region, we will be modifying the Burdekin Catchment Water Plan to utilise groundwater systems in addition to surface water. This will lead to better resource management and more informed decisions on future developments.” Graham Herbert, Manager – Queensland Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water

West Macdonnell Ranges, NT, Australia


"Mineral exploration in Australia is becoming harder with undiscovered mineral deposits almost certainly undercover. The market struggles to fund large-scale regional programs that open new exploration frontiers. Initiatives such as Exploring for the Future help address these challenges and are essential to encourage ‘greenfields’ exploration in new terranes." 

Stuart Rechner, Chairman of Strategic Energy Resources Ltd

Projects like this were significant considerations in Anglo American’s decision to return to mineral exploration in Australia.

Dr Steven Micklethwaite

Discovery Manager for Australia at Anglo American