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Bipartisan support by the Coalition and Labor will help our resource sector dig deeper for Australia’s secure future

The peak body for Australia’s 8,000 geoscientists — the Australian Geoscience Council (AGC) — has strongly welcomed commitments from both the Coalition Government and Australian Labor Party to boost support for the exploration of ‘next generation’ hidden mineral deposits in Australia.

“While Australia is endowed with significant mineral resources and the resources sector contributes massively to our economy, the ‘easy to find’ minerals of past decades have largely been discovered and exploited”
AGC President and former AIG President, Dr Bill Shaw, said today.

“There is now a need to explore much deeper underground for the nation’s new ‘hidden’ mineral fields.”

“Bipartisan support is crucial to ensure we champion new exploration approaches, new technologies, extremely accurate data collection and modeling. Not surprisingly, this requires significant long-term investment and the AGC seeks joint bipartisan commitment that will bring renewed confidence.”

“If Australia is to benefit from the huge demand for the minerals supporting sustainable technologies — copper, cobalt, nickel, lithium, graphite and the rare earth metals needed for solar panels, electric vehicles and the batteries they need for storing renewable energy — significant investment will be required in new technologies and approaches to uncover ‘harder to find’ minerals.”

“The Australian Geoscience Council has been actively involved in the UNCOVER initiative and Decadal Plan for Geoscience — two initiatives of the Australian Academy of Science that have brought together government Geoscience agencies, industry, academia and research bodies in a unique collaboration to initiate and fast-track much-needed Geoscience research, data collection and new technologies to find and better exploit ‘hidden’ mineral deposits deep under the Earth’s surface.”

“A Resources 2030 Taskforce established by the Coalition Government has also focused attention on the need to attract and encourage resource development investment, and many countries are watching how Australia takes this forward as they try to catch up with our initiatives. We also welcome the recent investment in the MinEx CRC and AuScope, which will mesh with and complement further initiatives.”

“It is clear that the world-leading vision of these cross-sector Geoscience collaborations has been noticed, with both the Coalition Government and the Australian Labor Party announcing they will significantly invest in long-term plans to boost and support minerals exploration in Australia.”

“The Australian Geoscience Council notes that the Coalition has just released a National Resources Statement outlining how it will attract investment, develop new resources and markets, and share the benefits of success with more regional communities.”

“This will include supporting the development of new resource provinces through co-operation with state and territory jurisdictions; continuing to invest in advanced seismic and airborne electromagnetic surveys through the $100 million Exploring For The Future program; and improving the consistency and scope of data across the resource sector.”

“Such programs use cutting-edge technology and are having a huge impact on new views of potential minerals and groundwater provinces. The Coalition has also announced priority status for funding applications related to critical minerals projects under the $20 million Round 7 of the Cooperative Research Centres Project.”

“Similarly, we welcome the Australian Labor Party’s announcement of their Future Mines and Jobs plan that will kick-start the discovery of new mines across the country. It will also establish an Australian Future Mines Centre to co-ordinate exploration work and lead the scientific research and development necessary to explore under deep cover. The Centre will be funded through a $23 million Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, with input from the Australian Academy of Science and the sector. Labor will encourage industry co-funding as part of the Centre’s work, and will also invest $2 million to provide 100 scholarships to arrest the decline in mining engineering degree commencements.”

“The Australian Geoscience Council strongly welcomes the significant focus of the major parties on supporting the resources sector to discover the next generation of ‘hidden’ mineral resources and increase Australia’s minerals and energy security. The markets and competitive profile around the globe are always changing, and they impact on Australia’s mineral resources and export opportunities, so there is no cause for complacency. We must have the knowledge to be able to plan and act strategically.”

“The years of easy exploration and extraction are largely over. The road ahead is going to require more innovation and substantial lead-times in discovering and developing the resources that Australia and the world needs. These must be found and extracted safely, cleanly and efficiently if we are to continue to support and maintain the community values that we expect in Australia.”

“Recognition by the major parties of these realities – and their understanding that the resources sector remains essential to Australia’s future prosperity, standard of living and resource security – is greatly welcomed in the lead-up to the next federal election and beyond.”

“We look forward to working with all politicians to help put their commitments into action.”

Australian Geoscience Council media release, 19 Feb 2019.

AIG is a member of the Australian Geoscience Council 

Further Information:

More information on UNCOVER can be found here.

The Decadal Plan can be found here.

The Resources 2030 Taskforce Report can be found here.

AGC member societies

Mining Geology 2019: Submit your abstracts by 4 March 2019

Mining Geology: 2020 and beyond

Don’t miss this opportunity to share new technologies, best practices and innovations within the mine value chain. Call for abstracts are set to close on Monday 4 March 2019.

Topics for the conference call for abstracts are;

  • Best practice in data collection and mining geology – now and emerging
  • The future of mining and mining geology – advances in technology, AI and automation
  • Maximising orebody value and driving productivity improvement
  • Mine Value Chain integration – it’s not just about the geoscience
  • Geological modelling, geometallurgical modelling and resource estimation – sound practice to leading edge


The International Mining Geology Conference is the premier event in the world of Mining Geology. Find out more at mininggeology.ausimm.com

The abstract submission deadline is the 4 March 2019.

Applied exploration geochemistry workshop

“The Fallacy of the Deep”

IMEx Consulting is conducting a one-day Exploration Geochemistry workshop focussing on Interactive Data Analysis

Wednesday 6thMarch 2019 at the Transcontinental Hotel, 482 George St, Brisbane.

All participants will need to provide a laptop computer & have ioGAS preloaded (demo version OK). 

The workshop is limited to 15 participants.

Click here for the workshop brochure which includes registration details.  Registrations are requested before Friday 22nd February, 2019.

For further information contact: Mark Arundell.
E: workshop@imex.net.au

Multi-element analysis of geochemical samples is now common practice in mineral exploration. Voluminous data is being generated but potentially is not fully utilised by project geoscientists.

Traditional anomaly definition of geochemical data has tended to focus on the highest numbers in selected target elements. However, in many circumstances the highest numbers may not be the most significant given the geological context.

This workshop focusses on more informative techniques of viewing and visualising geochemical data.  This style of targeting focuses on placing allof the geochemical data into a richer geological context.

This is a “hands-on” workshop illustrating & applying these techniques. The workshop is directed to allgeoscientists who want to extract more from their data.

Mark Arundell has over 30 years’ experience in exploration geology and in the use of multi-element geochemistry to find ore deposits.  Mike Whitbread has over 20 years’ experience as an exploration geochemist working both for major companies & as a consultant.

Epithermal Au-Ag and Porphyry Cu-Au Exploration short course

Greg Corbett and Stuart Hayward are presenting their popular epithermal Au-Ag and Porphyry Cu-Au Exploration short course, 14-16 May 2019.

May 14 & 15, Chatswood Club, 11 Help Chatswood, NSW (5 mins walk from Chatswood train station) lunch, morning and afternoon teas provided. Two days of PowerPoint lectures focus upon mineral exploration for epithermal and porphyry ore deposits derived from Dr Corbett’s 40 years field experience, including earlier short courses provided with the late Terry Leach from the early 1990’s. Exploration and mining examples from over 40 countries are used to delineate the characteristics of different epithermal and porphyry ore types, and controls to mineralisation, using tools such as alteration, structure and breccias. A final section considers geological features recognised in exploration marginal to ore bodies. Participants will be provided with a current draft of the new short course notes. Drafts of the first few chapters are available here.

May 16 – A practical exercise held at the W B Clarke Geoscience Centre, Londonderry, uses diamond drill core referred to in the lectures (above) and a set of teaching specimens to provide hands on training in ore and alteration mineralogy and the use of geological models. Greg is helped by and Stuart Hayward, who has over 30 years experience in epithermal-porphyry ore deposit exploration and mining. Return bus from Chatswood and lunch provided.

Registration includes handouts, lunch, morning and afternoon teas and transport to and from Londonderry. Minimum of 20 participants required and limited to a maximum of 40.
Students from $150 + GST but if you need assistance contact Greg Corbett
Unemployed geologists from $400 + GST
Employed geologists from $1500 + GST
Follow the link to download the short course registration form.

Australian geoscience today

AIG’s Australian Geoscientist Employment Survey has been running for almost ten years, regularly collecting data on employment prospects for geoscientists, as well as demographic data that provide insight into how our profession is evolving.

Since the surveys commenced, unemployment amongst Australian geoscientists has been as low as 1.6% in September, 2011, and as high as 19.5% in March 2016. We’ve seen a small fall in the proportion of geoscientists in full-time employment, from 74% in June 2009 to 69% in the September 2018 survey. There has been a similar fall in part-time employment from 4.5% to 3.3% for the same period. Self-employment (geoscientists working as independent contractors and consultants) has risen from 21% in June 2009 to 28% in September 2018.

Where are we today?

In September 2019, 89% of survey respondents were working, or seeking work as a geoscientist in Australia. 7% of respondents were not seeking work, 2% were retired but staying in touch with their former profession, and the remainder of respondents were working or seeking work in fields other than geoscience.

Mineral exploration, metalliferous mining geology and energy resource exploration and production employ 85.4 % of survey respondents, only slightly less than the peak of 87.4 % observed in December 2014.

Geoscientist employment in mineral exploration, mining and energy production in Australia, Jun 2009 to September 2018.
Geoscientist employment in mineral exploration, mining and energy production in Australia, Jun 2009 to September 2018.

This is vastly different to the situation in Europe and the USA, where environmental services, government agencies and academia are the greatest sources of employment for geoscientists. Fields of employment including diamond exploration, engineering geology, industrial minerals production, groundwater resource management, environmental geoscience, government geoscience and other fields are relatively small contributors of employment opportunities.

Employment fields for geoscientists in Australia
Australian geoscientist fields of employment, Sep 2018

More than half of the geoscientists working in Australia are Western Australia based. More than ten percent of Australian-based or educated geoscientists work overseas.

Where Australia's geoscientists work.
Where Australia’s geoscientists work, Sep 2018.

Almost 75% of Australian geoscientists have a Bachelors Degree with Honours (requiring a minimum of four years full time study at most Australian universities). Almost 42% have a Masters degree or PhD. Almost 80% received their highest degree in Australia, while more than 90% earned their highest qualification in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada or the United States of America.

Geoscientist education in Australia
Australian geoscientist education, Sep 2018

Our profession appears to be ageing. Almost one third of Australia’s geoscientists have been involved in the profession for more than 30 years. Assuming a new graduate enters the workforce at 22-23 years of age, 30 years experience points to one third of Australia’s geoscientists being in their mid-fifties. The proportion of young geoscientists, with five or less years of experience stands out in these figures as being low, at less than 6%. This could be due to geoscience failing to attract students, or to early career geoscientists not seeing value in professional association membership. Geoscientists, for example, cannot act as Competent Persons in compliance with the JORC Code until they have at least five years relevant experience. Not being engaged with their peers through professional association membership could simply reduce awareness of surveys like the ones on which this article is based. Should the former proposition be true, however, our profession has a major problem that requires a concerted effort to attract more talented students to geoscience studies and careers.

Our ageing profession.
Our ageing profession.

Diversity was a hot topic in scientific circles throughout 2018. Overall, 85% of Australian geoscientists are men. The ratio of men to women geoscientists varies considerably, however, with years of experience. The greatest proportion of women in geoscience is amongst early career geoscientists, with less than five years experience, followed by mid-career geoscientists with 10 to 15 years experience. The proportion of women entering the profession of just under 30% demonstrates that more needs to be done to attract and retain women by Australian geoscience if greater gender balance is to be achieved. The goal of gender balance in the profession will only be achieved by a sustained effort over several decades.

The proportion of women with an honours degree or higher is 82%, greater than men with 74%.

Gender diversity by years of experience
Gender diversity by years of experience amongst Australian geoscientists (Sep 18)
Gender and education amongst Australian geoscientists, Sep 18.
Gender and education amongst Australian geoscientists, Sep 18.

Participation on different industry sectors varies considerably. Relatively few women work in mineral exploration, leading to greater participation in mining, energy resource exploration and production, government geoscience, engineering geology, industrial minerals and environmental geoscience.

Differences in employment fields between women and men in Australian geoscience

Differences in employment fields between women and men in Australian geoscience

In conclusion, this review of some of the survey results over time yielded a few surprises. Despite the highly cyclical nature of mineral exploration, it remains the dominant form of employment for geoscientists working in Australia. Fields where employment opportunities have grown considerably in the USA and Europe, including groundwater management and environmental geoscience, continue to be only a small part of Australia’s geoscience scene. This is surprising, given pressures on land for development in major cities where remediation of old industrial sites is a major source of land for urban development and the reliance of cities and towns on groundwater for an increasing proportion of their water needs has increased over the past ten years.

Does this raise questions regarding Australia’s focus on environmental stewardship more generally if we are not seeing an increased focus on these fields?

Similarly, engineering geology remains a relatively small sector of the geoscience profession, again against a backdrop of development of more difficult land for housing, industry and commercial uses in our major cities.

The figures can certainly be interpreted to demonstrate the importance of Australia’s resource industries to our economy, with the discovery of new mineral resources and stewardship of existing ones remaining the principal source of demand for geoscience capabilities.

Our profession is arguably making progress towards becoming a more diverse employer in Australia, but gender balance isn’t going to be achieved overnight. Achieving this will require sustained effort over decades, requiring commitment from all sectors of our profession. This occurs alongside an overarching need to ensure talented students are attracted to geoscience careers, which may well prove to be a significant contributor to geoscience in Australia in many ways.

Andrew Waltho

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