A wide variety of mineral resources exists throughout the 1.35 million kms2 of the Northern Territory. From bauxite and uranium in the north east, to zinc, lead and silver in the Gulf region, to gold in the centre and west, the prospectivity of the Northern Territory has proven to be strong. Mining activity has been operating for some decades, with $3.2 billion of mineral resources produced in 2014-15.
The Northern Territory offers an attractive opportunity to efficiently transport bulk minerals to market because of the bulk material handling facilities in place in the Port of Darwin, and the national rail line running the length of the Northern Territory, together with faster shipping times to Asia than any other Australian port.
Ten operating mines are producing gold, uranium, bauxite, manganese, silver, lead and zinc. Sixteen additional projects, with a combined potential capital expenditure of over $3.3 billion, are in feasibility, construction or approval processes.
Significant producing mines in the Northern Territory include:
- Gove - Rio Tinto (bauxite)
- GEMCO - South32 (manganese)
- Ranger - ERA (uranium)
- McArthur River - Glencore (zinc, lead)
- Bootu Creek - OM (manganese)
- Callie - Newmont (gold)
- Cosmo - Crocodile Gold (gold).
Advantages that set the Northern Territory apart
- A history of strong support for the industry from both sides of the Northern Territory Parliament, including access to geological data, know-how and existing infrastructure.
- Access to capable labour and expertise locally and via a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce.
- Endowed with sought-after commodities, especially gold, manganese, bauxite, base metals, phosphate, uranium and rare earths.
- Significantly shorter shipping times to Asian ports.
- Willingness to work with investors interested in utilising the Australian Government’s regional migration visas for skilled labour.
- Access to capital markets and expertise in Australia, one of the world’s most experienced centres in the funding of resources projects.
- Vast exploration opportunities from greenfields to existing brownfields exploration.
Opportunities for investors
The Northern Territory has world class reserves of manganese, uranium, phosphate, base metals, gold, vanadium and rare earths. Not only is there a significant number of proposed mineral projects and opportunities under development or in evaluation, substantial prospective ground is yet to be fully explored.
Rare earths have been discovered north of Alice Springs, with two mining applications already well advanced.
The Australian continent contains 30% of total known reserves of uranium, much of it existing in the Northern Territory. Uranium has been mined in the Northern Territory since the 1950s, with established transport operations through the Port of Darwin. There is potentially a massive global undersupply of uranium looming, creating strong market prospects for the strategically located reserves in the Northern Territory.
Phosphate reserves are actively being developed in the Tennant Creek area in the centre of the Northern Territory.
Substantial gold deposits exist in many parts of the Northern Territory, and mining extraction is being enhanced by the recent development of enabling infrastructure.
Significant producing mine locations
Chandler Salt case study
Tellus evaluated six rock salt provinces across Australia before choosing the Amadeus Basin in the Northern Territory, aided in the selection by geoscientific data made available at no cost to industry by the Northern Territory Government.
Though an initial mine life of 25 years is planned, at a salt production rate of 500,000 tonnes per annum, the underground deposit is so huge the potential mine life is virtually limitless.
Creating the remarkable
The project was awarded Major Project status in 2014 and a definitive feasibility study is due for completion in 2017. Mining approvals are currently being sought for a +25 year operation, with an estimated capital construction cost of $566 million. Processing plant pilot work has been completed in the United States and Germany.
Under the project’s development timeline, construction commences in 2018, storage revenue also commences in 2020 and salt production commences in 2022.
Tellus had free access to government records of previous drilling, including core samples which were able to be sent for laboratory testing for salt content.
The Director of Mining Facilitation and Development in the Department of Primary Industry and Resources continues to assist Tellus through Australian and Northern Territory Government licensing and approval processes for both mining and waste storage. This dedicated senior officer provides ready access to key ministers and decision-makers and facilitation of information across departments and key industry stakeholders.
Since 2012, Tellus has been a regular participant on Northern Territory Government investment attraction delegations to China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, building Asian relationships and attracting firm interest - in industrial and edible salt, service and equipment supply, funding research and development.
"Tellus would like to thank the Northern Territory Government for their support through the Northern Territory Government’s Trade Support Scheme and facilitating discussions with Chinese buyers, potential investors and key stakeholders. We achieved all our objectives."
Duncan Van Der Merwe
Gemco case study
The Northern Territory is richly endowed with manganese. Groote Eylandt’s world class deposit is the centre of manganese mining activity in Australia.
Every tonne of steel needs manganese and new manganese has to be added to each tonne of recycled steel. Demand from China is expected to increase as the rebuild of infrastructure constructed early in its investment boom yields mountains of scrap.
GEMCO is the largest and one of the lowest-cost manganese ore producers in the world, and the biggest producer of the steelmaking raw material. It accounts for more than 15% of the world’s high grade manganese ore production, exporting approximately 70% to global markets.
GEMCO commenced mining at Groote Eylandt in 1964, under BHP ownership, covering an area of approximately 8,500 hectares. As part of South32’s demerger from BHP Billiton, South32 (an independent global metals and mining company) acquired ownership of GEMCO. The GEMCO mine stands out as a prime example of a successful long term project in operation in the Northern Territory.
In 1972, the beneficiation plant was commissioned at a one million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) maximum capacity and a series of expansions has been undertaken since.
The most recent was completed in 2013 and increased GEMCO’s maximum capacity from 4.2 Mtpa to 4.8 Mtpa through the introduction of a dense media circuit by-pass facility. The expansion also addressed key infrastructure constraints by increasing road and port capacity to 5.9 Mtpa, creating 1.1 Mtpa of additional infrastructure capacity for future expansions.
A US$139 million Premium Concentrate Project was approved in August 2014 and is expected to be complete by the end of FY2016, ramping up to full production of 0.5 Mtpa in FY2017. A standalone processing facility near the existing concentrator will be built to produce a premium concentrate product for export sale, which will increase GEMCO’s capacity to 5.3 Mtpa. This expansion also involves an upgrade to port infrastructure to handle the blending of premium concentrate with existing ore fines products.
Creating the remarkable
The Northern Territory Government has worked alongside GEMCO throughout each of their expansions, to facilitate and streamline the government approvals process. A coordinated, whole of government assessment process has ensured that GEMCO has had access to the right people at the right time to resolve any potential issues efficiently.
The Northern Territory Government has approved all applications for expansion to date and is currently assessing GEMCO’s draft Environmental Impact Statement for their Eastern Leases Project, located approximately 2kms east of their existing mine.