Why are we doing it?
Unlocking Australia’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resource potential is essential to drive economic growth, job creation, and ongoing infrastructure and community development.
- In 2020–21, Australia’s agricultural sector accounted for 1.9% of GDP and employed around 300,000 Australians, while the minerals and energy sectors accounted for 10% of Australia’s GDP, $310 billion of exports, and employed around a quarter of a million Australians.
- It is vital we maintain these sectors to secure our energy, water and primary production needs, and provide the minerals necessary for a low-emissions, high-tech future.
- Over 80% of Australia is underexplored, with potential minerals, groundwater and energy resources hidden beneath the surface.
- Australia's current resource prosperity comes from discoveries and developments made decades ago in geologically well-known and well-explored areas. It can take 5–10 (or more) years for a new resource to go from discovery to development.
Geoscience Australia plays an important role by developing pre-competitive geoscience data to technically de-risk underexplored ‘greenfield’ areas, which encourages exploration investment and helps provide certainty and security for the minerals, energy and agriculture sectors.
Investment in exploration—supporting our future
Groundwater is a critical intergenerational resource for Australia, providing drinking water to millions of people in cities, towns and small communities, supporting billions of dollars of economic activity each year and sustaining our natural environment. It is crucial for Australian industries, particularly the agriculture industry.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent, making water use and management a key challenge. Reliable water resources are critical for successful and healthy Australian communities, especially in remote areas. Most of the freshwater used across northern Australia comes from groundwater rather than from surface water sources.
In the last few decades, we have more than doubled our groundwater use. Today, groundwater accounts for around one third of Australia’s total water consumption. This need is only going to increase over time as we aim to build our industries, particularly in rural and remote Australia.
The Exploring for the Future program seeks to improve management of this vital resource to support future water security across the country.
Energy–specifically, access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy—will be an ongoing need as we seek to warm or cool our homes, fuel our industries, and transition to a lower carbon economy. In future we will be supported by lower emissions energy sources, like natural gas, to balance energy demand and supply.
By 2029 it is expected that an additional 3 million homes will need to be powered by gas. Australia is the largest exporter of liquid natural gas (LNG), and the resource is one of our most significant export commodities. Australia is also embarking on a journey to become a major exporter of hydrogen by 2030.
To support the transition to lower carbon emissions and renewable energy, the program seeks to improve the supply of gas in the immediate term and kick start the hydrogen economy while also securing supplies of liquid fuel.
Minerals, including critical minerals, are vital to Australia’s advanced manufacturing and energy sectors. For example, a single wind turbine requires 3–4 tonnes of copper. The batteries that store the energy generated by that turbine are built with lithium and cobalt. Many devices we rely on every day, including the one you are using right now, consist of more than 20 metals. Australia can produce these materials to support our own domestic manufacturing sectors and continue to build our export market.
Looking to new regions—securing the pipeline
The benefits from resources that we see today are from investments and developments made decades ago. They come from well-known and well-explored areas of Australia. In fact, over 80% of Australia’s current mineral production comes from mines discovered before 1980, where resources are close to the surface.
In Australia, there is a huge, untapped opportunity in areas that are underexplored and unexplored, also known as ‘greenfield’ areas. This includes areas where resources may be buried deep in the ground—areas that span about 80% of Australia's landmass. The challenge is to see through the cover and map the structures and composition of the Earth, in the search for new mineral, energy and groundwater resources.
The Exploring for the Future program is designed to address this challenge. Drawing together data, science and innovative techniques and technology, the program enables us to map undercover and underexplored areas. This in turn encourages new investment in ‘greenfield’ areas by providing security and certainty to our minerals, energy and agriculture sectors about the resource potential. It also helps identify areas where new high-value agricultural industries could leverage groundwater resources in responsible and sustainable ways. We utilise the tools that ‘shine a light’ below the surface and deep into the Earth in innovative and unique ways to reveal new resource exploration and development opportunities.
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.
What have we done?
We have completed 21 collaborative activities that have mapped the geology of northern Australia, covering over 3 million km² — 39% of Australia's landmass and delivering more than 250 datasets and reports.
What have we achieved so far?
We used world leading scientific skills and technical capability to capture and analyse a huge amount of data, leading to an unprecedented understanding of the Earth beneath northern Australia.