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South Australian Exploration Initiative (1992 - 1996)


From July 1992 to June 1996, $23.5m was allocated by the State Government to the South Australian Exploration Initiative (SAEI).

Approximately 75% of SAEI funds were allocated to mineral geoscientific programs including airborne geophysical surveys, bedrock drilling and compilation of geoscientific databases with the remainder allocated to petroleum orientated projects.

The success of the SAEI minerals program vindicated the Government's pioneering strategy of stimulating mineral exploration through public funding of state-of-the-art airborne magnetic and radiometric surveys, and industry orientated geoscientific programs.

The SAEI contributed to an upsurge in mineral exploration as companies realised the vast mineral potential of the State.

Continued mineral exploration is crucial to further development of the State's minerals resources and captured geophysical data coupled with the high level of exploration stemming from the SAEI provided a successful template for the future BHEI, TEISA and PACE initiatives.

Geophysical Surveys

The most important component of the SAEI has been the coverage of the State with high resolution airborne geophysical surveys.

The SAEI airborne geophysical program has been the most intensive publicly funded survey undertaken in Australia, with some 400,000km2 of the State covered in less than three years.

Over 1 million line kilometres ($10 million) of new data was made available to industry at a cost of around one cent per kilometre of data.

Most major metaliferous provinces were covered, including the Gawler Craton, Wilyama Inliers, Adelaide Geosyncline, Kanmantoo Trough and eastern Musgrave Block.

Drilling Programs

Bedrock drilling was undertaken to further enhance the exploration potential of various regions and to provide a framework for interpretation of aeromagnetic data.

To date, 1,000 drillholes, totalling 60,000m have been completed by Primary Industries and Resources South Australia (PIRSA) on 15 different areas of the State.

The SAEI Bedrock Drilling programs have been highly successful in attracting mineral exploration to the State including new coal basins south of Copley and in the Coober Pedy region.

SAEI results showed considerable mineral prospectivity in a number of areas, especially in the northwest Gawler Craton between Ceduna and Coober Pedy and in the Upper South-East.

Extremely encouraging results from PIRSA bedrock drilling in the Upper South-East (Coomandook) included intersections of about 1% copper and zinc mineralisation in rock types not previously explored.  As a result, there is complete coverage of the region by exploration licences, with millions of dollars in exploration funds committed.

PIRSA drilling has discovered new coal basins south of Copley and in the Coober Pedy region.

Company Exploration Activity

Graph showing increase in exploration expenditure under SAEIThe pioneering 4-year South Australia Exploration Initiative set new benchmarks in the following areas:

Metres of drilling activity

  • Trebled from 201,000m in 1991 to 634,000 in 1997.

Private mineral exploration

  • Rose from AUS$17.2 million in 1991 to AUS$53 million in 1997.

Area of state under mineral licence

  • Trebled from 14% in 1991 to more than 40% in 1997.

Level of company exploration in SAEI target areas

  • Rose from 5% in 1993 to 70% in 1997.

Exploration successes directly attributable to SAEI

  • Challenger and Golf Bore gold deposits in northern Gawler Craton.
  • Campfire Bore, Tunkillia and Nuckulla Hill prospects in Gawler Craton.
  • Significant iron ore resources defined in the Gawler Craton.
  • The Abminga area diamond potential.
  • Base metal and gold deposits in the Portia region of the Curnamona Province.

Groundwater resources

Improved assessments of availability from Great Artesian Basin.