Mineral Resources Management and Administration
Mineral Resources Tasmania (MRT) provides the necessary geoscientific information and tenement infrastructure to foster responsible mineral resource development and land management for the benefit of the Tasmanian community, and gives effect to government policy in relation to minerals and petroleum.
MRT is responsible for:
the acquisition of geoscientific data to enhance mineral and petroleum exploration and responsible land management within Tasmania;
encouraging and assisting the mining sector to make better use of Tasmania's resources by exploration, market research and improvement in environmental performance;
the regulation and environmental monitoring of the Tasmanian mineral exploration and mining industry;
ensuring a sustainable future for the mineral exploration, mining, quarrying and mineral processing industries.
Growth in mineral exploration activity is essential for the future development of the mineral sector and for the economic well-being of Tasmania. Mining and mineral processing accounts for over 40% of Tasmania's export capacity. MRT, by providing information on areas of high mineral and hydrocarbon resource potential in Tasmania, encourages private sector exploration which will lead to new operations coming on stream as the economic life of existing operations declines. By ensuring an adequate return from our mineral resources, all Tasmanians can share the benefits of our mineral wealth. The mining industry in Tasmania experienced difficult conditions during the year, with low commodity prices and, in a number of cases, the mitigating effect of the low Australian dollar being offset by company hedging arrangements. Exploration of the Avebury nickel deposit by Allegiance Mining NL continued to be successful, with the company defining resources and successfully completing a scoping study. Goldfields (Tasmania) Limited continued to obtain promising intersections of gold mineralisation near the Henty mine. Overall levels of investment in mineral exploration remained low. The Thylacine 1 exploration well, drilled in offshore petroleum permit T/30P, identified a substantial gas resource - the largest gas discovery to date in the Otway Basin. Preliminary volumetric estimates indicate that the in place gas resource will probably exceed 600 billion cubic feet, and may exceed one trillion cubic feet. The major issues affecting MRT in 2000-2001 included:
Progressing Phase Four of Project TIGER (Tasmanian Information on Geoscientific and Exploration Resources) within the given time frame and budget.
The implementation of the recommendations of the first phase of the Western Tasmania Regional Minerals Program using funds allocated by the Commonwealth for this purpose.
Provision of an appropriate level of resources for environmental monitoring of exploration and mining tenements, and for inspection of mines and quarries.
Mineral Resources Management and Administration
This Output Group supplies services to the mineral and hydrocarbon exploration, mining, quarrying and mineral processing industries, as well as to the government and general public. The major Outputs relate to:
collection, integration, interpretation, publication and presentation of information on Tasmania's mineral wealth and geoscientific nature. This information includes geological, geochemical, gravitational, magnetic, seismic and other geophysical data, the engineering properties of soils and rocks, and the groundwater and construction material resources of Tasmania;
representation of wider community interests in land stability, underground water and waste disposal measures;
regulation of mineral and petroleum exploration in Tasmania, including offshore waters administered by the State, and the promotion of vacant areas available for onshore and offshore exploration;
setting and monitoring standards for both the performance of exploration activities and the technical reporting of exploration records and case histories;
environmental appraisal, monitoring and management of mining heritage and land access issues; and
issue of legal titles to mining tenements, collation and recording of statistics relating to mining production, collection of fees and rentals, management of royalty regimes and recording of mining tenements.
This Output Group contributes to the Department's goals of dynamic mineral exploration and land management for Tasmanian land and offshore waters and effective and efficient tenement management of the exploration and minerals industry for the Tasmanian community.
The major clients of this Output Group include the Minister for Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, the various levels of government, the mining and mineral processing industries, and the general public.
How this Output Group is delivered
This Output Group is delivered by Departmental officers, in close liaison with industry bodies and other government departments.
Achievements Against Strategies Identified For 2000/2001
Promotion of Mineral and Petroleum Potential
The Minister, the Hon. Paul Lennon, MHA, hosted a function attended by several mineral exploration companies at the Mining 2000 exposition in Melbourne in August 2000, resulting in coverage in the world's leading mining publication, Mining Journal. MRT presented a paper on Tasmania's mineral resource potential and prepared a booth for the convention. Promotional material was also presented at a booth at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) meeting in Toronto in March 2001. As part of the visit to support the booth, an MRT staff member visited 12 mining and three finance companies in Vancouver and Toronto as part of an Australian delegation.
Three offshore petroleum areas were released for bidding in 2001. These areas, in the Sorell Basin off the west coast, were actively promoted at the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Conference in Denver (USA) and at the Australian Association of Petroleum Conference held in Hobart in April 2001.
Collection, Integration, Interpretation, Publication and Presentation of Data
An Internet facility for searching and ordering technical documents held in the MRT library was developed and implemented as the first deliverable of Project TIGER Phase 4. This document searching facility is a valuable research tool for a range of MRT clients ranging from local historians to global mining and exploration companies. The functional design for an Internet Tenement Information System was also commenced but further development of Phase 4 was suspended by the Project TIGER Steering Committee to allow a comprehensive review of the project's resource requirements and business plan.
The collection and presentation of information on Tasmania's mineral wealth and geoscientific nature continues. Thirteen 1:25 000 scale geological maps were prepared for digital capture, compared with the target of twelve sheets, and data capture/output was completed for twelve of these areas. Corrections were made to another four maps. A significant amount of work was undertaken in the preparation of a seamless 1:250 000 scale digital geological compilation of Tasmania. Despite few geologists undertaking field work, primary geoscientific data acquisition totalled 300 square kilometres, in excess of the performance criterion of 200 square kilometres. This was a result of good access to the areas covered and favourable weather.
Two 1:50 000 scale digital maps covering the geology and hydrology of the Sorell area were produced. A 1:500 000 scale digital map showing the locations of known landslips in Tasmania, and three detailed maps of slope stability at Burnie, Penguin and Lilydale, were produced.
Recent developments in land stability hazard assessment have been designed to allow incorporation of data into quantitative risk assessments for planning purposes. MRT is in the process of developing a methodology for land stability hazard assessment that will be used to maintain the uniformity of future hazard mapping. A predictive GIS-based system is being developed and one region will be mapped using this methodology in the coming year.
Raising awareness in MRT of project management methodology was a priority during the second half of the year. A series of seminars on the Tasmanian Government Project Management Guidelines was delivered to all key MRT stakeholders and the project steering committee by the Department of Premier and Cabinet Project Services Group. A group of MRT staff attended a project management course to increase practical skills for project management methodology.
Western Tasmania Regional Minerals Program (WTRMP)
A Reference Group, with an independent chairman and members drawn from the Tasmanian Minerals Council, the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science and Resources and MRT, developed a series of projects to implement the geoscience infrastructure recommendations of the Final Regional Development Plan of the Western Tasmanian Regional Minerals Program.
Under the WTRMP approximately 114,180 line kilometres of aeromagnetic and radiometric data have been acquired over King Island and western and north-western Tasmania and the final data, which are of excellent quality, delivered to MRT. Helicopter-based acquisition of electromagnetic data over parts of western Tasmania commenced in February and will resume in October 2001.
Airborne Radar and multispectral remote sensing data were collected over an area in north-western Tasmania as part of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Pacrim II project.
A collaborative study has been undertaken by MRT, the Australian Geological Survey Organisation and the National Centre for Petroleum Geology and Geophysics to improve the knowledge relating to the petroleum potential of the offshore Bass and Sorell Basins.
The technical documents relating to onshore and offshore exploration and MRT technical reports are being scanned to allow on-line viewing on the Internet and downloading for local viewing or hardcopy production. At 30 June approximately fifty percent of the required scanning and indexing had been completed.
Setting and Monitoring Standards for Exploration Activities
MRT is responsible for ensuring that all exploration activity in Tasmania achieves the highest environmental standards and complies with the Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 and the requirements of other legislation which protects, for example, threatened species and cultural heritage. The fourth edition of the Mineral Exploration Code of Practice outlines the current requirements, the approvals process, and the controls and monitoring procedures that MRT has in place.
During the year 48 exploration work programs were submitted and approved by MRT. Of these, 17 were in Regional Forest Agreement RFA)-derived reserves and required assessment by the Mineral Exploration Working Group.
To comply with the RFA, Mineral Resources Tasmania has developed a system to spatially record exploration activity and attributes to that chart the process of approval of individual work programs. All work programs, whether on Crown Land, State Forest or private property, are entered on this system to give a complete record of all the environmental information relating to exploration. The system has also been designed to provide ongoing information on the outcomes of rehabilitation of exploration activity.
Compliance auditing of this system requires verification that the agreed approval process is adhered to and that derived statistics reflect the RFA and the recommendations of the Resource Planning and Development Commission. An external verification audit of the system was completed in early 2001 by Quality Assurance Services. The overall conclusion was that the auditing system was sound, but that the complexity of the process required a more formal documentation system to avoid errors and to allow for easy knowledge transfer. Resources have been allocated to further develop the system during this financial year.
MRT received and assessed 144 reports detailing mineral exploration activities undertaken by companies exploring within Tasmania. As part of a national agreement to move to digital lodgement of exploration data, MRT has begun phasing in reporting standards for the digital lodgement of exploration reports, but there has been little response to date from explorers. Another educational program will be undertaken in the new financial year when MRT's reporting guidelines for Tasmanian explorers have been revised to bring them further into alignment with similar guidelines from other jurisdictions.
Rehabilitation of Mining Lands Trust Fund
The funding to rehabilitate abandoned mines comes from an agreement with the mining and quarrying industries under which a proportion of the royalty increase introduced in 1995 was to be allocated for rehabilitation.
In 2000-2001 major works were completed at abandoned mines near Gladstone in north-east Tasmania. Erosion control and revegetation works were carried out at the Endurance mine, while at the Monarch mine repairs were necessary to erosion control gabion structures which had been damaged by flooding. The revegetation at Star Hill continues to flourish and an additional area was re-seeded with suitable local provenance species.
An anoxic limestone drain was constructed above the former mine shaft at Storys Creek, to add alkalinity to the mine water.
Several disused gravel pits were rehabilitated near Beaconsfield. Maintenance was carried out at the revegetated gravel pits at Oakdeane Road near Scottsdale.
Smaller scale works included rubbish removal and safety work at Moina, repairs to the Arthur dam, and rehabilitation at the former Magnet mine site, near Waratah. Gorse was sprayed at the Queensbury mine near Zeehan.
Special Initiative - Core Library
The Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 requires the Government to maintain a library of drill core from exploration, mining and construction projects undertaken in Tasmania. This service is essential to document the geology and mineral deposits of Tasmania and to attract new mineral exploration projects. At the beginning of the 1999-2000 year the existing core storage facility at Mornington was at capacity. MRT examined various options and concluded that the most cost-effective option was to convert to a system of high density storage on the present site, with future expansion to be accommodated by adding storage modules on an as-needed basis.
The Government committed $422,000 from the Capital Investment Program (CIP) for 1999-2000 and $270,000 for 2000-2001 for the extension and refurbishment of the Mornington core library. The completion of the first phase, construction of a new storage module to house 450 kilometres of core, was completed within budget and a new fork lift truck was commissioned. The new module was opened by the Minister for Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, Hon. Paul Lennon, MHA, on 10 May 2000.
The completion of the core library extension project was fortuitous, as major acquisitions of core from the Hydro-Electric Corporation and mineral industry would have exceeded the capacity of the previous storage by about 30%. About 51 kilometres of core was received for storage up to 15 May 2001. The need to store this influx of material has delayed completion of the second phase, the refurbishment of the inspection facility. Approximately $160,000 of the $270,000 allocated for extension and refurbishment in 2000-2001 has been used to provide racking. The remaining allocation will be used to upgrade the core inspection facility.
MRT is responsible for the collection of mineral royalties from crown land tenements. Royalty is not a tax, but a payment to the community for the purchase of the State's non-renewable resources.
The Tasmania royalty regime operates under two systems depending on the type of resource recovered. Companies producing a metallic mineral or coal pay under a two-tiered system where royalty is paid on the net sales and profit from a mine. Royalty on the recovery of non-metallic minerals on Crown leases is set on a per metre or per tonne basis.
MRT conducts a royalty audit program to ensure tenement holders are paying in accordance with the legislation. Mine and quarry inspections are also undertaken by Inspectors of Mines to determine the quantity of material taken from a tenement.
Mineral royalties totalling $10.7 million were collected during the 2000-2001 financial year, a decline from the $12 million collected in 1999-2000. The 2000-2001 financial year was a difficult one for most Tasmanian mines, with reduced commodity prices, unfavourable hedging programs and production problems impacting on revenues.
Centre For Ore Deposit Research, Special Research Centre (CODES-SRC)
Funding is provided under this Output for support for CODES-SRC at the University of Tasmania in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government and industry. The allocation is used to part-fund honours scholarships, and thus help increase knowledge of Tasmanian geology, particularly in the important fields of economic geology and mineralisation. The MRT Library receives a copy of each thesis, which is available for reference use.