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Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar


There was great interest in the Nolans rare earths mining project at the Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar (AGES)

The project is being developed by Arafura Resources.

The company’s NT manager Brian Fowler says the interest in Nolans was significant – “probably the best ever”.

Arafura Resources is concentrating on negotiating binding sales agreements and attracting enough investment to build and operate the mine.

Nolans, which is 135 kilometres north along the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs, is one of the largest and most intensively explored rare earth deposits of its kind in the world.

The deposit contains a Joint Ore Reserves Committee (JORC) compliant mineral resource of 56 million tonnes.

Open-cut mining and processing operations could last more than 38 years – producing critical rare earths concentrate and phosphoric each year.

Despite their name, rare earths are quite common, but very few deposits can be mined economically.

The minerals have many uses, including being vital to electric cars.

Arafura Resources has attended every AGES for more than the past 10 years.

Mr Fowler describes it as a “must attend” – “it gives us a chance to network with our peers, showcase our project and catch up with key stakeholders”.

He says AGES 2021 was a resounding success.

The announcement at the seminar that the Territory Government was extending the Resourcing the Territory initiative and increasing funding was well-received and applauded.

“It’s good to see the NT Government supporting an industry that provides more than 20 percent of the Territory’s GDP,” says Mr Fowler.

“Improving and increasing the available dataset will help many explorers, in particular smaller companies. Many don’t have the capacity to acquire their own.

“This acts as an incentive to explore and invest in the Territory, so may well lead to more discoveries and provide good future returns on the Government’s forward-thinking.

“It is hoped this increased allocation will boost cooperative funding exploration opportunities between companies and the NT Government.”

The Northern Territory Government will increase its annual funding to Resourcing the Territory from $6.5 million to $9.5 million from 1 July 2022 – with the funding to be ongoing.

The funding will enable:

  • Near-term resource development through an increased focus on exploration of brownfield sites
  • Identification and promotion of new areas of the Territory for resource exploration
  • acceleration of geoscience programs to attract and de-risk mineral exploration
  • expansion of the Geophysics and Drilling Collaborations grants program
  • studies of the Territory’s geological potential for critical commodities to support a low-emissions future
  • further collaboration with the Federal Government’s Exploring the Future program which has facilitated substantial investment in the NT.

Minerals Council executive director Drew Wagner says: “This funding will boost jobs and local communities in the Territory’s under-explored areas while providing opportunities at both new and existing sites for minerals exploration.

“More funding will support the vital first step in understanding local geology, which is crucial in giving confidence to potential investors in the Territory’s economic future.

“This announcement sends a clear message to the global market that opportunities to invest in the Territory will be backed by the Government for the greater good of all Territorians.”

AGES 2021 attracted the highest number of delegates for nearly a decade, with 260 people registering for the technical program, 60 percent of whom travelled from interstate.

The associated Mining Services Expo attracted 32 organisations and 68 attendees in the exhibition hall – 56 percent of exhibitors were from the Territory, with one third from Alice Springs.