The Kapunda copper mine in its early stages in 1845.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

founders' hopes for mineral riches confirmed 


SOUTH AUSTRALIA HAS THE FIFTH LARGEST DEPOSIT OF GOLD, fourth largest deposit of copper and the largest single deposit of uranium in the world. It may yet be found to have the world’s largest underdeveloped iron resource.

The state’s copper is waiting for its second crowning in the 21st Century. Copper was found near Kapunda in 1842. In 1845, even larger deposits of copper were discovered at Burra Burra which brought wealth to the Adelaide shopkeepers who invested in the mine.

The founding South Australian Company was looking at mineral possibilities in the colony even before settlement in 1836 when it appointed the German Johannes Menge as mine and quarry agent and geologist.

Menge was Australia’s first geologist and has been called the father of Australian mineral exploration. He travelled widely and helped make the first significant cooper find.

South Australia’s early colonial administrators also played an early role in describing the colony’s geology.

The second governor, George Gawler (1838-1841) made his own geological contributions.

The first surveyor general William Light and his staff were asked to site the capital near water, coal and building stone resources. This continued after Light.  During the 1840s, surveyor general Edward Frome reported on geology during his exploration. His deputy, Thomas Burr, presented an early geological report from exploring South Australia’s southeast region in 1844. Appointed mineral surveyor in 1846, Burr conducted Australia’s first geological survey and wrote the first geology book Remarks on the Geology and Mineralogy of South Australia published in Australia. Its overview identified Cambrian Age rocks for the first time in Australia.



BIRTHPLACE OF AUSTRALIAN METALS MINING AND EXPORT  in South Australia; Burra copper find brings on boom in colony

Minerals help motivate the founding of South Australia; Johannes Menge pioneers search

Finding minerals was important in motivating the founding the colony of South Australia. At its second meeting in London in 1834, two years before South Australia was colonised, the South Australian Literary and Scientific Society’s principal lecture was on “The geology of Australia”. In 1835, a public company was planned in England to explore for minerals in South Australia. The colony’s founding South Australian Company in 1836 appointed the German Johannes Menge as mine and quarry agent and geologist. Menge was Australia’s first geologist and he also has been called the father of Australian mineral exploration. He was dismissed in 1838 for eccentric behaviour but kept on exploring and was a key to the discovery of copper at Kapunda. South Australia’s early colonial administrators also played an early role in describing the colony’s geology. The second governor, George Gawler (1838-1841), made his own geological contributions. The first surveyor general William Light and his staff were asked to site the capital near water, coal and stone resources. This continued after Light died. During the 1840s, surveyor general Edward Frome reported on geology during his exploration. His deputy, Thomas Burr, presented an early geological report from exploring South Australia’s southeast region in 1844. Appointed mineral surveyor in 1846, Burr conducted Australia’s first geological survey and wrote the first geology book Remarks on the Geology and Mineralogy of South Australia published in Australia. It identified Cambrian Age rocks for the first time in Australia.

Australia's first metals mine and first metals exports from South Australia in the 1840s

South Australia operated the first commercial metalliferous mines in Australia and produced the first Australian metalliferious exports in the 1840s. Ore was discovered in 1838 on land owned by colonial treasurer Osmond Gilles. This Glen Osmond mine started in 1842. A nearby discovery in 1841, claimed to be abundant in gold, silver, lead and iron, led to Wheal Gawler mine. In 1841, a trial shipment from Gawler Wheal was sent to London: the first Australian export of metalliferous ore.

Monster discovery of copper at Burra sets off Australia's first mining boom in 1845-51

South Australia gave Australia its first mining boom in 1845-51, after a major discovery of copper led to a “monster mine” at Burra. Until 1860, it was the largest metals mine in Australia. From 1845 to 1877, it produced about 50,000 tonnes of copper. By 1850, Burra was the largest inland settlement in Australia, more than double the size of the current major cities of Perth and Brisbane. The first significant copper find had been in 1842 at Kapunda, and more small mines followed.

George Kingston a key to colony's middle class investors getting share of copper bonanza

George Strickland Kingston, deputy to surveyor general William Light, was prominent in forming the South Australian Mining Association to keep the mineral wealth of the colony from overseas speculators after the “monster” copper finds in Burra Burra. Kingston played a role in getting the more successful northern half, the Burra Burra Mine, for “the snobs” (South Australian Mining Association, shopkeepers, merchants) while the southern Princess Royal Mine was backed by wealthy capitalists



and companies like Bank of Adelaide, Elders, Adelaide Steamship

Robert Barr Smith and Thomas Elder empires built on Wallaroo and Moonta mines loan

Robert Barr Smith and Thomas Elder built business empires on the payback from the £80,000 they borrowed to develop Wallaroo and Moonta copper mines in 1860-61.With the enormous wealth this generated, they opened vast outback agricultural land and set up a trading network of stock and station agencies. Barr Smith and Elder started two major companies of national significance – Elder Smith & Co and Adelaide Steamship – that thrived through to the second half of the 20th Century.


Burra mines leader Henry Ayers first chairman of the Bank of Adelaide in 1865

Henry Ayers, who became rich from the Burra copper mines where he was South Australian Mining Association secretary in charge of 1000 men, was the first chairman of the Bank of Adelaide. The bank was founded in 1865 by a group who included those who had made money from the Burra mines.The board also included Robert Barr Smith who made his fortune from £80,000 borrowed, with Thomas Elder, to develop Wallaroo and Moonta copper mines in 1860-61. Thomas Waterhouse was an early shareholder and later director the Burra Burra Mine.

George Brookman leads Adelaide investors who gain from Broken Hill and WA mine shares

South Australia’s copper mining flurry petered out in the second half of the 19th Century but the state’s longest mining-based boom lasted from the 1890s until 1928. South Australians had built a tradition of investing in copper mines during the 1840s. This continued as the Adelaide Stock Exchange investors enjoyed a boom when silver, lead and zinc were found at Broken Hill in 1883. George Brookman was one of the biggest beneficiaries when gold was discovered in WA in 1893.


Charles Rasp flaunts wealth from Broken Hill bonanza at Willyama mansion in Medindie

Charles Rasp (real name: Hieronymous Salvator Lopez von Pereira) was born in Saxony in 1846 but from Portuguese ancestors who changed their name and were being pursued by the financier Rothschild. After a first-class German education, Rasp worked for a chemical plant in Hamburg before joining the army. During the Franco-Prussian war, he left for Australia. From the 1870s, he worked on pastoral properties in Victoria, NSW and Queensland when gold and silver discoveries were made, including Silverton. Rasp always carried his Prospector’s Guide, bought in Adelaide. Believing he’d discovered an outcrop of tin, Rasp, James Poole and David James pegged out a mineral claim at Broken Hill in 1883. Rasp was in a syndicate of seven, each contributing £70, that formed Broken Hill Proprietary in 1885. It became the world’s largest lead, silver and zinc mine – with its mineral smelted at one of South Australia’s first big industrial plants at Port Pirie. In 1886, Rasp married German-born Adelaide waitress Agnes Marie Louise Kleversahl. Rasp bought, and enlarged by 12 rooms, a Medindie house they named Willyama, the Aboriginal name for Broken Hill. Rasp died in 1907. Wife Agnes and servant Anna Paech left to live in London and Germany. When she returned to Adelaide in 1921, Agnes, considered an enemy alien, had all her property and shares confiscated under the Enemy Property Act. It was returned only through a special act of federal parliament, sponsored by Billy Hughes


after Australia's first gold find at Montacute now showing hope

South Australia's copper high halted as 28,000 rush to Victoria for gold in 1852-53

South Australia’s copper euphoria, set to last into the 1850s, was dramatically interrupted by news in August 1851 of the gold discovery in Victoria. Ironically, Georg Bruhn, who confirmed the discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851, had been among the German and other geological experts flooding into South Australia during the Burra cooper boom. About 28,000 males left South Australia in 1852-53. Even the rich copper mining operations at Burra were largely suspended due to lack of labour.


Diggers' gold brought home from Victoria; ingots used by them to buy rural crown land

South Australia responded with novel solutions to the crisis created by the mass exodus by 1852 of more than a third of the colony’s male population to the Victorian goldfields, taking with them most of the ready cash and causing a run on the banks for coin. In a rescue operation, the South Australian government introduced the Bullion Act 1852. Gold discovered by South Australian diggers was brought back home and assayed into ingots that many diggers later used to buy crown rural land.


Australia's first gold found at Montacute but Echunga field fails to fulfil major hopes

Australia’s first gold find was in the Adelaide foothills at Montacute, in 1846. But the first payable gold was discovered by farmer William Chapman in 1852 and led to Echunga in the Adelaide Hills being the first proclaimed goldfield in South Australia. An initial rush attracted 1000 men and nearly £20,000 worth of gold found but the Echunga diggings were almost deserted by 1852 as most Adelaide males went to the Victorian gold diggings. The second major diggings in Echunga opened in 1868.

21st Century gold production rising with big and small producers active state-wide

Gold interest in the Adelaide Hills has returned in the 21st Century with Terramin Australia wanting to build a $25.6m mine to extract at least 237,000 ounces at Bird in Hand, part of the Woodside goldfield in the 1880s. Elswehere, gold production has risen in South Australia as smaller producers, including the state’s newest gold mine, Tarcoola, look to top what could be record gold production for South Australia. Gold output was anticipated to jump from 280,000oz in 2015–16 to 380,000oz in 2016–17.


EYRE PENINSULA ORIGINS FOR AUSTRALIA'S STEEL INDUSTRY; supplies iron ore for only local steel in the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Australia's first big iron ore mining from the 1890s at Iron Knob on the Eyre Peninsula

Australia’s first commercial iron ore mining began at Iron Knob, on Eyre Peninsula, in the 1890s by the Mount Minden Mining Company. Before that, the first small deposits of iron ore found close to Adelaide in the 1840s were used as flux in the copper smelters at Kapunda, Burra and Wallaroo. By 1870, it was suggested that the colony's governor give a £2,000 bonus for the first 500 tons of marketable pig iron smelted from South Australian ore. The first iron ore was produced at Gawler in 1871 followed by smelters opened at Mount Jagged near Victor Harbor in 1873. Early in 1879, the Port Augusta iron works were operating. In 1890, the Iron Monarch Company sank several shafts near Iron Knob but only found copper. Mount Minden Mining Company found iron and worked leases at the Iron Knob and Iron Monarch deposits in the 1890s. But in 1896 it forfeited these leases for not paying rent.  BHP (Broken Hill Proprietary) pegged out claims over the area to secure its supply of flux for the Port Pirie lead smelters. The leases were granted in 1899, at £2 per year. (The leases were extended in 1920 and 1937; the second being granted on condition that BHP would build a blast furnace at Whyalla.) Initially, ore was taken by bullock teams to Port Augusta and loaded on barges for transport to the Port Pirie smelters. By 1902, a tramway to Hummock Hill (Whyalla) and a jetty for shipping had been completed. In 1907, the Iron Knob mine employed 60 men who produced 2,500 tons of iron ore per week. After 1915, production rose as the mine began supplying ore to the Newcastle steelworks.

Iron Knob ore provides the only Australian steel content for building Sydney Harbour Bridge

Twenty per cent of the steel that went into building Sydney Harbour Bridge came from ore mined at Iron Knob and smelted at Port Kembla. (The rest of the steel was imported from England.) Iron Knob gave birth to the Australian steel industry. Until iron ore was discovered in Western Australia’s Pilbara in the 1950s, Iron Knob was Australia’s only known large deposit of iron ore. After initially using it as flux for its Port Pirie lead smelters, Broken Hill Proprietary found that Iron Knob’s ore had upwards of 60% purity and it began supplying to steelworks to Newcastle and Port Kemble in the 1920s and to Whyalla’s new steelworks in the 1930s. By 1930, Iron Knob, and its outcrop Iron Monarch, was South Australia’s chief source of mineral wealth. Iron Knob ore was also exported to the Netherlands, the United States of America, Britain, Germany and, controversially, Japan, during the 1930s. Additional deposits of iron ore were developed by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company further south along Eyre Peninsula’s Middleback Ranges, including Iron Princess, Iron Prince, Iron Baron, Iron Knight, Iron Duchess and Iron Duke, reputed to be the highest grade deposit of iron ore known in the world. By 1949, 99% of Australian demand for iron ore was supplied by Iron Knob and its associated mines. With Western Australia taking over iron ore exports, quarrying at Iron Knob and Iron Monarch ended in 1998.

Iron Road halves scale of $4.5 billion Central Eyre Iron Project (CEIP), with rail and port, in 2018

Iron Road's original $4.5 billion iron ore and infrastucture Central Eyre Iron Project (CEIP), approved by the South Australian government in 2017 as Australia's largest magnetite mine, was scaled back by half in 2018. The expected production target was also halved from 24 million to 12 million tonnes of ore each year, with spending on building the mine down to $US645 million. Original plans for 148km railway line and and deep-water port at Cape Hardy, near Tumby Bay, on the east coast of Eyre Peninsula have been separated from the iron ore project. Instead, the company is looking at using the port initially for handling of grain exports through the local bulk handling cooperative. Alternative to using rail transport for the mine were also being explored. Three major Chinese banks  – China development Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Constructions Bank –  were interested in funding the project but were having trouble getting money out of China and a wider array of investors were being sought by Iron Road. Iron Road was confident a market remained for high-grade iron ore such as Eyre Peninsula's. Other South Australian projects that have been on the books in various stages reflect the wide spread of iron ore waiting to be exploited in the state..

Sanjeev Gupta folds Whyalla steelworks and Middleback Ranges mine into his vision

The 2017 purchase of the former Arrium steelworks at Whyalla by Sanjeev Gupta and the GFC Alliance also includes an iron ore mine in the nearby Middleback Ranges that producd 10 million tonnes a year.  In 2018, Gupta's SIMEC Mining bought two extra iron ore projects – Kimba Gap, 50km west of Whyalla, and Wilgerup, 30km southeast of Lock on central Eyre Peninsula, from Adelaide ASX-listed company Centrex Metals. SIMEC also has leases on the Iron Warrior and Iron Sultan mines on Eyre Peninsula.

CU-River Mining to build Port Augusta port to export its magnetite iron ore from Cairn Hill

CU-River Mining bought Port Augusta’s former power station 1068ha site from Flinders Power in 2019, with plans for a $250 million port to handle iron ore, grain and other commodities. The port would become the export site for CU-River’s Cairn Hill mine, 55 kilometres south east of Coober Pedy, capable of producing three million tonnes of magnetite iron ore annually. CU-River Mining company wants to grow this to 15 million tonnes per annum by 2026 with its nearby Snaefell and Tomahawk projects. Port Augusta’s port would have an annual capacity of up to 15 million tonnes but potential for than 50 million tonnes per annum. Besides exporting magnetite iron ore to the Chinese steel industry, CU-River envisaged the port to have many commercial uses, including the possibility of a solar farm. Key infrastructure, including the 5km rail loop and unloading systems, made the site suitable for a port. CU-River Mining agreed to take over rehabilitating and revegetating the former power station site. It has previously exported 90% of its ore through Flinders Ports at Outer Harbor. CU-River Mining was founded by Adelaide-based Yong Gang Shan in 2014 when it bought the mothballed Cairn Hill iron ore mine from IMX Resources and gave it a $20 million revival. It later secured funding for an $800 million expansion in 2018. This helped South Australia’s magnetite strategy goal of producing 50Mt of magnetite iron ore per year by 2030.

with scientific curiosity that gave the world a new era of geology

Reg Sprigg a colossus of South Australia's minerals and energy scene in 20th Century

Reg Sprigg was a towering figure of 20th Century South Australian minerals and energy, as a geologist, explorer, environmentalist and a founder of the state's oil and gas industry. As a boy in the Adelaide suburb of Goodwood, Sprigg had access to the beach where he collected shells and fossils, developing a serious interest in geology. He took samples to be identified at Adelaide University. At 17, he became the youngest fellow of the Royal Society of South Australia.


With ASIO watching, Reg Sprigg works on uranium fields at Mt Painter, Radium Hill

Reg Sprigg was sent to work for the South Australian Geological Survey in 1944 to reopen uranium fields at Radium Hill and Mount Painter. Without knowing it, Sprigg become part of a search for uranium to be used in atomic bombs for the Manhattan Project in the USA.He came in contact with another prominent South Australian Mark Oliphant who worked on the Manhattan project. Because Sprigg had been a union secretary, ASIO watched him closely as a “suspected Communist”. 


Reg Sprigg unveils gas in Cooper Basin; makes geological searches in deserts and under sea

Reg Sprigg left the government mines department in 1954 and formed Geosurveys of Australia. Sprigg helped establish Santos (South Australia Northern Territory Oil Search), which discovered gas deposits in the Cooper Basin. Geosurveys became Beach Petroleum, with Sprigg as general manager. Spriggs was also the first to drive across the Simpson Desert to pioneer its exploration. He also explored the Gulf St Vincent and ocean floor beyond to prove his theories about deep-time geology.

Ediacaran, a whole new Precambrian period in history of geology identified by Reg Sprigg

Reg Sprigg’s claim to geological fame stems from 1946 when he was sent by the South Australian government to inspect abandoned mines in the Flinders Ranges’ Ediacaran Hills to see if they could be reworked. He discovered fossils that he believed were Precambrian. At the 1948 International Geological Congress in London, he failed to excite interest or belief in his find. Professor Martin Glaessner at Adelaide University later showed that fossils were of the latest Precambrian age.


URANIUM MINING ANOTHER FIRST FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA from 1906 – now biggest Australian exporter from Olympic Dam 

First uranium mine in Australia at Radium Hill from 1906; Port Pirie gets treatment plant

Australian mining of uranium started in South Australia at Radium Hill from 1906 and then at Mount Painter. Serious uranium exploration started in 1944 after requests from the United States and UK governments. A uranium treatment plant, operated by the South Australian government at Port Pirie opened in 1955, processing ore from Radium Hill and Wild Dog Hill (Myponga), south of Adelaide. The complex supplied the UK-USA Combined Development Agency. It closed in 1962.


Olympic Dam massive: 10 billion tonnes of gold, copper, uranium etc under 600km x 150km

Olympic Dam, 56 km north of Adelaide, is a colossal mine waiting for new technology to unleash its full assets of 10 billion tonnes of ore under a zone 600km long and 150km wide. It has the world's most diverse ore body including the largest uranium deposit, fourth largest copper deposit, fourth largest gold deposit with silver and iron among this mix. Olympic Dam is already the site of Australia's largest underground mine, with a workforce of 3000 based at the nearby Roxby Downs.


BHP expansion plan delayed in 2012 after Olympic Dam mine open pit approach axed

BHP, after having all federal/state approvals, in 2012 announced the $30 billion expansion of the Olympic Dam mine project was being postponed while it looked for a “new and cheaper design”. Instead of open-pit mining, Olympic Dam would be switched an underground mining method called sublevel open stoping. Despite this change, in 2013, Olympic Dam became Australia’s largest producer of uranium oxide or yellowcake, exported at Port Adelaide. Uranium brings in 20% of mine income.


Start on the southern area will unleash Olympic Dam's full copper richness

BHP is on the verge of producing the first ore from the “body of the guitar” – the southern mine area at the massive Olympic Dam operation. The southern mine is the main body of the guitar-shaped minerals area. It was where the original open pit was proposed to access this main body of copper, gold and uranium. Since 1988 only the northern area – or the neck of the guitar has been mined. This means 70% of Olympic Dam resources, not touched after 25 years, are still available to be mined.



lead South Australia's copper comeback in Gawler Craton region

Burra revived in 1970s as South Australia pins big hopes on its 68% of the nation's copper

Burra mine had a 20th Century revival when it reopened as a modern open cut in 1971 and operated for a decade to extract 24,000 tonnes of copper. South Australia has 68% of Australia’s copper – a key element for a more energy-efficient world. A major advance in making South Australian copper the world’s best and cleanest came with $18 million research at Adelaide University, funded in 2015 by OZ Minerals and the state government, that identified a hyrdomet process to strip out impurities.

Carrapateena joins Prominent Hill and Olympic Dam as big Gawler Craton mines

OZ Minerals’ $916 million Carrapateena project has joined the company’s Prominent Hill and BHP’s Olympic Dam as major copper mines digging deep into the Gawler Craton region. Carrapateena is a world-class copper-gold deposit about 160km north of Port Augusta and 100km southeast of Olympic Dam. The $916 million mine construction is expected to generate 1000 jobs up to the start of production in late 2019. The 5.5km tunnel at the mine will access one of Australia’s largest undeveloped copper deposits.

Copper Strategy team effort aims for an annual output of a million tonnes by 2030

The South Australian Copper Strategy, with a $20 million boost by the state government in 2015, is a team effort by the government, industry, scientific outlets, universities and services suppliers, seeks to triple South Australia’s output of copper to one million tonnes by 2030. A key par tof the strategy  is the world’s largest high-resolution airborne geophysical and terrain imaging exercise to seek out deep reserves in South Australia’s copper belt.

OZ Minerals strikes agreement with native title holders Kokatha on Carrapateena mine

OZ Minerals struck an agreement with the KokathaAboriginal  native title holders in a key milestone for its $975 million Carrapateena copper and gold project in far north South Australia. A vote on their native title mining agreement was passed at a meeting in Port Augusta,attended by about 150 Kokatha common law holders.OZ Minerals worked closely with the Kokatha Aboriginal Corporation to ensure a mutually beneficial Nganampa Palyanku Kanyintjaka partnering agreement was struck.

Kanmantoo copper mine in Adelaide Hills, first worked from 1840s, ends its third phase in 2019

Adelaide Hills Kanmantoo copper mine, first dug underground from the 1840s to 1874, reworked as an open-cut mine from 1970-76, had its third major open-cut phase, from 2011, end in 2019. Run by Hillgrove Resources, the mine, 55km south east of Adelaide CBD in a Hills vineyard area, reached a peak workforce in its third life but the ore grade didn’t meet early expectations. This presented severe cash problems in 2016 that hampered expansion. A turnaround came when the purest highest-grade copper ore was accessed by a cutback in the mine's main pit. In six months, Hillgrove produced almost 10,800 tonnes of copper – valued at almost $9000 per tonne – and more than 3800 ounces of gold, at a profit of $13.9 million. Part of this was used to pay debts and reward shareholders. Hillgrove identified the chance to use the mine for pumped hydro in 2017, and accepted a $31 million tender from energy giant AGL in 2019 to use the site. Hillgrove had to abandon exploration beneath the existing mine pit because of the pumped hydro electrical storage that AGL would need. Hillgrove Resources still hoped to move on to other projects nearby, with possibilities including the Kannappa Prospect for copper/gold, lead/zinc at Mount Torrens, the former Bremer high-grade underground copper mine, and gold/lead/zinc at Mount Rhine. Kanmantoo mine had the challenge of being near vineyards and houses. Hillgrove helped build a 15km pipeline from Callington to take treated waste water from Mount Barker district council’s Laratinga plant for the mine, with environmental and other benefits.

PACE (Plan for Accelerating Exploration) SUPPORTS AND SETS   targeted categories for South Australian minerals and energy

PACE grants from state government backing copper, exploration drilling, supply chain

PACE (Plan for Accelerating Exploration) state government grants, started in 2005, have underpinned $700 million in private South Australian mineral exploration. They have helped at least 15 significant discoveries at a rate of 20:1 in private-to-public spending. PACE grants encourage areas such as copper, discovery drilling and supply chain development. PACE funding was instrumental in discovering the Carrapateena copper-gold deposit north of Port Augusta, a $770 million project OZ Minerals.


Cairn Hill, Central Eyre Iron and GFC Alliance boost for magnetite (iron ore) strategy

A state government strategy aims to more than double the magnetite (iron ore) mines in South Australia and expand output to 50 million tonnes a year by 2030. This builds on three major magnetite developments in 2017. CU River announced an $800 million expansion of its Cairn Hill magnetite mine. Approval has also been granted for Iron Road’s $4.5 billion Central Eyre Iron Project. GFC Alliance, new owners of the Whyalla steelworks, want to increase production from the Middleback Ranges.

Archer targeting all the big possibilities for graphite and graphene at its Campoona mine

Graphite and its byproduct graphene are minerals for future global industries, such a solar cell technology, being targeted by Archer Exploration (Campoona project, north of Cleve) and Lincoln Minerals (Kookaburra Gully, northwest of Port Lincoln) on Eyre Peninsula. Archer wants to make up to 100 tonnes of graphene annually. Archer has signed an agreement with Adelaide University-based Australian Research Council graphene research hub to commercially make graphene and graphene products. Campoona mine has an expected life of 17 years and revenue of $858 million. Lincoln Minerals is looking to open its $44 million Kookaburra Gully open-pit mine, 35km northwest of Port Lincoln, to produce 35,000 tonnes per annum of flake graphite concentrate over 10 years..

Drill core library of 130 years of exploration in South Australia adds to geophysical data

The $32 million South Australia Drill Core Reference Library, at Tonsley Park, is part of the technical information support for the state’s mineral search. The drill core library has geological samples – equivalent to 7.5 million metres of drill core – from more than 130 years of exploration for minerals and energy in the state. A landmark three-dimensional geophysical model of the whole of South Australia to a depth of 100km is also at Holloway Geoscience 3D Theatre in the library.


debate over Great Australian Bight's oil reserves in background 

Cooper, Otway basins big gas (with oil) hopes but fracking banned in the south east region

The Cooper Basin is the most important on-shore petroleum and natural gas deposit in Australia. The 130,000 square kilometre basin is mainly in north-west Queensland but extends into north-eastern South Australia. The mostly-offshore Otway Basin in South Australia's south east also contains immense reserves of gas but the Liberal state government in 2018 imposed a 10-year ban on fracking in exploring for gas in the onshore south-east region to protect its "clean, green" reputation. 

Exploration pushed as gas becomes increasing the focus of baseload energy supply needs

Oil and gas exploration spending in South Australia enjoyed a high spurt in 2016, driven primarily by drilling at 10 new wells in the Cooper Basin. It was the first significant upturn  since the global oil price plunge in 2014. With gas becoming an increasingly important part of the domestic energy-supply mix, the state government is also giving encouragement with PACE (Plan for Accelerating Exploration) Gas grants. Baseload power in South Australia is provided by gas-fired generators.


Reg Sprigg and Cooper Basin give birth to gas giant Santos company and its challenges

Santos (South Australia Northern Territory Oil Search), headquartered in Adelaide, is one of Australia's largest domestic gas producers. It supplies sales gas to all mainland Australian states and territories, ethane to Sydney, and oil and liquids to domestic and international customers. The company was built on Cooper Basin gas and oil discoveries made in the 1960s with the help of legendary geologist Reg Sprigg. Santos is primary partner and operator of gas plants at Moomba and Ballera (in Queensland). 


Drilling for big oil/ gas reserves in the Bight strongly opposed but Equinor pressing on

Opposed by environment protection groups, exploration of the large oil and gas prospects in the Great Australian Bight off the South Australian coast has had several false starts. Offshore exploration in South Australia has a 50-year history, with $1.2 billion invested by oil/gas companies in Bight exploration since the 1960s revealing large oil and gas prospects. BP and Chevron in 2016-17 withdrew plans to drill in the Bight. BP completed one of Australia’s largest offshore 3D seismic surveys in the Bight in 2012 in a venture with Norway’s Statoil in its proposed drilling venture for further exploration in the Bight. BP failed twice to win environmental approval to drill two wells off South Australia's west coast about 400km south west of Ceduna. Announcing the ditching of its $400 million plans, Chevron said, while the Bight had massive potential, low oil prices had forced it to concentrate on other projects. Chevron said its decision had nothing to do with government policy, regulatory, community or environmental concerns. It was confident about an ability to drill without mishap. Statoil, Norway’s state-owned oil company, became operator and 100% owner of two of the four permit zones it had shared with BP. Statoil changed its name (dropping "oil") to Equinor in 2018 and pressed on with seeking approval to drill in the Bight. In 2017, the Wilderness Society criticised a federal government proposal to open up another oil and gas exploration block in the Great Australian Bight. The society said the Bight was “home to one of the most significant whale nurseries in the world”. 


TORRENS PROJECT OPENING WAY FOR BIGGER POSSIBILITIES than Olympic Dam and Carrapateena in iron oxide/copper/gold

Argonaut Resources gains long-pursued right to drill for huge Lake Torrens system

Argonaut Resources gained approval in 2018 to drill for a large iron oxide copper-gold system at Lake Torrens it believes could be bigger than the nearby multi-billion-dollar Olympic Dam mine, one of the world’s largest copper deposits. It is also near Oz Minerals’ large Prominent Hill and Carrapateena mines. The final approval for Argonaut Resources ended 20 years of trying to gain access to the giant Torrens anomaly, after Aboriginal native title claims were rejected.


Liberal government in South Australia caught in middle of mining and agriculture stalemate

A change to the South Australian Mining Act, to remove farmers’ right of refusal for mining companies to use their land, has been put on hold after it was deferred in 2018 by four state Liberal government rural backbench MPs voting against it with the opposition Labor party. The impasse continued into 2019 when the state energy and mining department overruled its minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan’s compromise to win over the group of rebel backbenchers. The proposed Mining Act changes mirror those proposed by the former state Labor government. It was heavily criticised for being “rushed” through by the former government without holding a proper consultation with South Australian farmers. Yorke Peninsula MP Fraser Ellis, one of the rebel MPs, said the Liberal government would only “further alienate the party’s ordinary members” if it pushed through the mining legislation as it was. A meeting of the Liberal Party’s rural and regional council had also decided the government should drop the section of the bill giving mining companies power to appeal in court to access land used for cultivation. Primary Producers SA and commodity group members, Grain Producers SA and Livestock SA, couldn’t support the Mining Bill in its current format and had provided a big list of changes. They called for an independent review into South Australia’s mining laws that would examine best-practice land access in other states. South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Rebecca Knol said the mining industry “categorically opposes” farmers being given a right to veto mining access. 

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