You are here

Resources – Mining Exploration Grants

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 8 June 2023

Tags: Mining, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - I am happy for that. If there is information that is already on the public record, I'm fine for you just to say that is on the public record and the response.

Minister, recently the Government released the list of successful applicants for the eighth round of the Exploration Drilling Grant Initiative Process. Interestingly all of the grant recipients for this new round had previously been awarded EDGI grants. One recipient, Moina Gold has now been awarded 15 EDGI grants. Do you think awarding so many grants of public money to one commercial operator is the best most appropriate and equitable use of public funds?

Mr ELLIS - I will pass to the department for some further detail in a moment.

We operate a competitive process as part of this. Our securing the Tasmania's future by supporting Tasmanian mining sector policy recognises the importance of mining to the state and the need for ongoing explorations to ensure the long-term continuation of this important industry. The key purpose of this policy was to drive value adding investment in Tasmania's mining sector. EDGI commenced in 2018 with a commitment of $2 million over four years, with the aim on increasing Greenfields Exploration expenditure.

In August 2021, the state budget included funding for an extension of EDGI with $1.5 million over three financial years, 2023-25 to encourage the drilling of Greenfields targets that may lead to the discovery of the state's next new mine.

Since the commencement of the initiative, there have been eight rounds released with applications for over 117 drill programs received. By April 2023, a total of $1.41 million in grants have been paid for 14.2 kilometres of drilling with an estimated total industry expenditure including costs such as logging and assaying of $3.8 million.

I will pass over to the team shortly. I announced the successful projects under round eight of the EDGI program in May. Of the 12 drill programs in round eight, completed to plan, then the quantum of co-funding will be $766 000 and 5 745 metres of drilling -

Ms O'CONNOR - Public money to mining corporations.

Mr ELLIS - and also, supporting for the first time our critical minerals sector which is an important part of national sovereign capability and our transition to net zero. I will pass over to the team to speak more about the application process.

Mr EVANS - I will note the terms of the overall EDGI program and the assessment process that all applications are competitive and reviewed by a committee comprising two staff from MRT, an industry representative and an academic representative. I will get the acting director of MRT to add a little to the process.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thanks, Mr Evans. When you clarify that, would it be possible through you minister, to explain why so many companies, the same companies, are rewarded repeat grants?

Mr EVANS - The point I am making, is it is a competitive process and applications are assessed on their technical merit by a committee on which we have technical and academic expertise as well as departmental staff. I cannot comment on the outcome of those competitive assessments, but it is a competitive process and applications are considered and assessed on merit.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thanks. It sounds like corporate welfare to me, minister.

Mr WAINING - I can add some further information. As the secretary pointed out, it is a competitive process and they are assessed as per each round and those applications are put in round by round and some by the panel of experts between MRT and independent people.

The actual criteria for which they are assessed is on the degree to which the application is targeting critical minerals. That is one that has only come in since round eight. The degree to which the application promotes greenfield projects are looking into the areas where we have less exploration density than otherwise and takes a number of years

Ms O'CONNOR - Like reserves and conservation areas, yes.

CHAIR - Order.

Mr WAINING - in areas that are allowed under the various regulatory systems to allow for mining access under the Mineral Resources Act, those areas. The proposal documentation providing everything is provided, it is clear, it is concise. The economic and technical merit of the application. The degree to which the application uses new exploration technologies, tests new geophysics or geochemical models and methods and includes ancillary data collection like physical properties and provides opportunities for further research.

Our aim at MRT is to build the geo-scientific data base and understand more about the geology of Tasmania. It is a very complex geological setting. This is an opportunity to build that information. We no longer have a government funded drilling service and the companies undertake the drilling. We use the data for furthering of our knowledge. Talks specifically about Moina Gold. Yes, they have applied for a number of and have been provided with the opportunity to undertake some co-funded drilling, noting there is a cap on the amount of money provided. We do not pay for all of the whole maximum 50 per cent.

Some of those were not accepted and were refused under the application process and they have completed with regard to actually receiving the funding for those that they applied for, for six to date - or five to date that received the grant funding for all of those applications, two of which were within round 8, so they haven't had that opportunity to yet, and on one from round 7 we're still waiting for the final details on the grant that won't be paid until all of the final details and the drill core is provided within the time frame.