Well-known West Australian explorer Mark Bennett has queried whether a plan by Rio Tinto to reinvigorate exploration in Australia through partnerships with junior mining companies will work as intended.
Rio has used its first presentation at the Diggers and Dealers conference in eight years to call for collaboration in exploration in order to find the next major mineral discovery in Australia.
The country’s miners are relying on deposits discovered at shallow depths more than 30 years ago and are struggling to discover further large, tier-one deposits at depth.
The current cost and risk of deeper exploration has meant many miners have abandoned exploration efforts altogether, opting for more bankable exploration around existing deposits (known as brownfields exploration) or in other countries, where resources remain shallow.
Speaking on the first day of the annual conference in Kalgoorlie, Rio Tinto exploration director Australasia Ian Ledlie extended an invitation to junior companies to use the global major’s mineral analysis technology to help prove up discoveries.
“We have a global trend of decreasing discoveries despite increased spend over the last decade and in Australia significantly reduced spend superimposed over a focus on brownfields over greenfields activity,” Mr Ledlie said.
“This would not seem to bode well for future resources for the sector globally, and for Australian in particular.”
Mr Ledlie said Rio Tinto had developed advanced analysis technologies that it would make available to smaller companies that wanted to partner with it in order to help firm up the pipeline of future projects.
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