Queensland is rich in natural resources including metallic and non-metallic minerals, coal deposits and petroleum, notably coal seam gas. The state is also in the world’s top five regions in terms of the production of silver, zinc, lead and bauxite and it is one of the largest seaborne exporters of coal in the world. Queensland’s mining and energy resources generate over $20.56 billion a year and the industry employs over 180,000 people.
The state Government is therefore increasingly focused on geoscientific discoveries, opening up more land for exploration, making more data accessible and providing new investment opportunities in both established and emerging resources. These include graphite, lithium, vanadium, cobalt, rhenium, scandium and unconventional petroleum.
The Bowen Basin in central Queensland contains almost all of the state’s hard coking coal reserves, and is the most important source of export coal in Queensland. The state also accounts for almost 15% of internationally traded thermal coal. During 2014 to 2015, $23.5 billion was exported to over 30 destinations overseas, and markets in Asia accounted for over 80% of these sales. Exports of high-volatile thermal coals are also increasing in the Surat and Clarence-Moreton basins, and along with the Tarong and Callide basins, these are also important sources of thermal coal for domestic power generation.
In terms of coal exploration in Queensland, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) brought about the operation of the Daunia open-cut mine in March 2013, and coal production from its Caval Ridge open-cut mine started in March 2014. Both of these projects formed part of their Bowen Basin Coal Growth Project, which includes the expansion of the Goonyella-Riverside’s mining operations. Both operations have now reached the full production of predominantly coking coal for export.
Large deposits of Permian thermal coal are also available in the Galilee Basin and proposed coal mining leases will dominantly encompass underground mining opportunities. The Galilee Basin also has some potential for the future development of coal seam gas resources.
Queensland is a rich source of lead, copper, zinc, silver, magnesite, phosphate rock and silica sand, and is globally recognised as having one of the world’s richest mineral-producing regions in the North West Minerals Province. The province is centred around Cloncurry and Mount Isa and has delivered significant economic benefits to Queensland for decades. Base metals, after coal, are the most important sector of the state’s mining industry, and this is a highly productive energy area thanks to the ongoing development of the Surat and Bowen Basins and the enormous potential of the untapped Galilee Basin.
In 2014 to 2015, the value of mineral mining in Queensland was over $8.6 billion and Queensland is Australia’s top producer of silver, zinc, lead and copper. Queensland is also the world’s third largest zinc producer, second largest lead producer and fifth largest producer of both bauxite and silver.
In recent years, exploration near existing mines has sustained Queensland’s mineral industry by discovering new deposits, adding extensions to known deposits or re-opening older mines. These include the Osborne copper mines, the Mount Carbine tungsten mines, the Lady Loretta zinc mine, the Phosphate Hill mine, and the Weipa bauxite mine, which is one of the four largest bauxite mines in the world.
In terms of the future of mineral exploration in Queensland, the establishment of world-class smelters and refineries and the development of an extensive transport infrastructure will both add to efficient and increasing local production for the export market.
Petroleum and Gas Exploration
Australia’s known gas reserves have grown rapidly over the past 20 years, making it the largest reserve holder in the Asia Pacific region and the fourth-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world. The petroleum industry in Queensland exceeds $1 billion in production value and petroleum expenditure, including in coal seam gas (CSG) exploration, has increased from over $751 million compared to $612 million in the period 2013 to 2014.
This expenditure is a reflection of the continued commitment by companies to develop their CSG reserves to service the export LNG industry. CSG is set to be the focus of Australia’s gas sector over the coming years, with Queensland home to 92% of Australia’s CSG resources.
There are than $65 billion worth of oil and gas extraction projects already under construction in the state, and another $21 billion under consideration. In terms of gas exploration in Queensland, there is a wealth of opportunity for companies to become involved in supplying both upstream and downstream products and services for these projects.
Available grants, incentives and concessions available for those looking to participate and invest in Queensland’s natural resources:
There are a number of programs and incentives for resource exploration in Queensland offered by the Australian Government, which include:
Australian Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS)
The mining boom over the past decade has led to the development of a sophisticated METS sector, and because of the strength of the market, Australian METS firms have overseas opportunities right across the supply chain. This includes in capital equipment, contract mining, exploration, mining consumables, professional services including engineering and consulting, software and advanced technologies and equipment supply. Priority markets with the greatest opportunities for Australian METS firms include Latin America, China, India, Russia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Africa, Indonesia and Mongolia.
Export Market Development Grants (EMDG)
A key Australian Government financial assistance program for both aspiring and current exporters, EMDG’s are administered by Austrade, a scheme that supports a wide range of industries.
Gas Acceleration Program
Provides businesses with matched funding grants of up to $6 million to accelerate the responsible development of onshore natural gas for domestic gas consumers. This program will support projects with the greatest likelihood of securing new and significant volumes of gas for domestic gas customers from onshore gas fields by 30 June 2020. Applications recently closed and successful applicants can be viewed here.
National Energy Resources Australia (NERA)
Backed by the Australian Government, NERA is a not for profit, industry-led knowledge organisation that seeks to support projects and create connections and that help unlock the full potential of the Australian energy resources sector.
Renewable energy is not directly in NERA’s scope, however they are a key partner with the renewable sector in achieving an uptake of clean technology, lower emissions and a sustainable mix for Australia. Its Sector Competitiveness Plan, sets out a 10-year strategic roadmap for Australia’s gas, oil, coal and uranium industries and applicants can apply for funding from a pool of $15.6 million.
From the Australian Taxation Office (ATO):
There are a number of tax benefits for resource exploration in Queensland, which include:
Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive (JMEI)
The JMEI builds upon the Exploration Development Incentive (EDI), which ended on 30th June last year. This program enables eligible companies to create and issue tax credits by giving up a portion of their tax losses from the Greenfield mineral exploration expenditure, which can then be distributed to eligible shareholders. The scheme applies from 1 July 2017 until 30 June 2021, with total credits limited to $100 million.
Research and Development Tax Incentive (R&D)
This replaced the R&D tax concession after 1 July 2011. The R&D incentive provides targeted R&D tax offsets designed to encourage more companies to engage in R&D. It has two core components, and entities engaged may be eligible for a 43.5% refundable tax offset for eligible entities with an aggregated turnover of less than $20 million per annum, and a 38.5% non-refundable tax offset for all other eligible entities.
There is also funding for resource exploration in Queensland offered by the state government, which includes:
Collaborative Exploration Initiative (CEI)
A range of grants and incentives have been introduced (including funding of up to $200,000) to stimulate investment in the Queensland resources sector. This will support innovative exploration techniques and encourage investment in under-explored parts of north-west Queensland.
Mentoring for Growth Program (M4G)
This program offers eligible businesses access to a panel of up to six volunteer business experts who can offer options, insights and suggestions on business challenges relating to growth and innovation. Mentors are drawn from a Queensland-wide pool of more than 500 registered and active mentors, and advice is delivered through both chat formats and panels, and conducted either via online meetings or face-to-face.
Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME)
The DNRME offers a range of career entry programs to enable students to build on their tertiary education and gain real-life experience. Intakes vary depending on the DNRME’s needs, and more information can be found on the Graduate Portal.
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships program
This builds collaboration between small businesses and universities by taking on university graduates to work on innovative projects. Partnering universities include QUT, UQ, Griffith University, Bond University, James Cook University, University of Sunshine Coast, Central Queensland University and University of the Sunshine Coast.