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The State Government aims to ‘supercharge’ exploration for new economy minerals with $10 million in grants to be released under the second round of its COVID-19 fightback plan.

The package announced this week also features a $650,000 investment in the mining equipment, technology and services sector.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said $10 million in exploration grants would speed the development of new mines to take advantage of high domestic and international demand in the growing “green economy”.

“This funding boost is part of the second stage of our Unite and Recover for Queensland Jobs plan, as we take the state forward in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms Palaszczuk said

“Queensland is rich in the minerals needed to manufacture the computers and smartphones we are communicating with, the renewable energy components needed to power them and the batteries we need to store the power.”

The exploration grants are just what the doctor ordered in terms of recent lobbying by the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies in Queensland, which requested such action in its Budget submission in February and in the joint Resource Recovery Agenda compiled with the Queensland Resources Council this month.

“It’s reassuring to see the exploration industry significantly supported in the announcement from the Queensland Government today,” AMEC Queensland manager Kate Dickson said.

She said there was no doubt Collaborative Exploration Initiative (CEI) funding created jobs, revenue for local communities and future royalty streams.

“Collaborative Exploration Initiative type programs are critically needed to find new and more sustainable deposits of minerals needed to supply the demand from emerging technologies, Queensland’s export partners and to provide the minerals needed for the rapidly growing renewable energy industry,” she said.

Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the government wanted Queensland to become the leading global exporter of new economy minerals, as it did with LNG a decade ago.

“This booster pack has the potential to create the next round of mega resource projects and jobs of the future,” Dr Lynham said.

He said Queensland already had some projects in the pipeline – Australian Mines’ Sconi project, a cobalt-nickel-scandium mine near Townsville, Aeon Metals Walford Creek base metals project 350km north-west of Mount Isa and Tungsten Mining’s Watershed project near Mount Carbine in Far North Queensland.

“Alone, these three projects could create more than $2 billion in investment and up to 2000 jobs during construction and operation,” Dr Lynham said.

The $10 million will be made available as exploration grants of up to $200,000 over four years.

It comes on top of  $2.8 million in exploration grants brought forward in the $13.8 million New Economy Minerals Initiative.

Regional Development Minister Glenn Butcher said the METS funding of $650,000 also announced today would help small businesses in the critical sector to accelerate commercialisation of their ideas.

“Queensland is a global leader in METS services, and the sector employs about 20,000 people across the state,” Mr Butcher said.

“These funds will get more products and services to market, expand customer bases and grow jobs in a sector where Queensland business already has a competitive edge.”