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A conjunction of events is leading to a supercell of mining development in North-West Queensland.

Queensland Resources Council economic policy director Andrew Barger said many of the boxes were ticked. 

Demand for critical and new economy minerals, backed by the release of more than 160 years of geological data combined with cutting-edge research, was set to deliver a new age of investment, he said.

It’s backed up by displays of intent from both big miners and junior explorers.

Global mining giants have busily pegged the largest portfolio of minerals tenures in the North West.

Anglo American and Rio Tinto have more than one million square kilometres and 626,000 square kilometres pegged out respectively.

These were not only the state’s largest holders of exploration leases they were also reaching out to collaborate on exploration efforts, Mr Barger said.

“And to have global scale producers like Anglo and Rio Tinto pegging a lot of country, exploring, but also being quite innovative in how they’re doing that. 

“So Rio Tinto announced a couple of years ago, ‘If you’re a junior, and you’ve got some drill core, you can run it through our logging system to get all the assaying done, and we’ll do that for you for free’. 

“But we want to share your data, so we want to look over your shoulder. 

“It is a strong signal from Rio Tinto to say, ‘If you’re exploring here, we’re really interested in sharing your information, and understanding what you’re finding because, ultimately, if you’ve got something interesting that’s going to be relevant to us, we have the capital to bring those discoveries to production.”

Driven by the projected electric vehicle demand, copper was one of the key bulk commodities in miners’ sights, Mr Barger said.

Overtures of co-operation were also being made by Glencore whose Mount Isa Mines assets were set up to accommodate third party processing of ore, he said. 

“… that’s another real interesting change we’ve seen in Queensland, Glencore’s been quite open about, ‘We’ll process your ore, we’ll run it through our smelter.’ 

“That’s an enormous opportunity for a company that hasn’t got an existing production stream to fund development work, or may not be able to borrow the money.

“Glencore gets a win because their plant’s running at a high capacity, and the region gets a win because, smaller explorers can become producers, they’ve got a path to market, because they can add some value. 

“They’re not trying to ship ore all the way to the coast. They can produce copper concentrate.”

These synergies, backed by the release of historical exploration data and new exploration techniques, were paving the way to the next world-class discovery, Mr Barger said.

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