The MinEx CRC National Drilling Initiative

Budd, Anthony 1,2

1 Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia; 2 MinEx CRC, Canberra, Australia

Approximately 80% of Australia has some form of cover rocks obscuring potentially mineralised geological regions. In order to remain internationally competitive for exploration investment, government geoscience agencies around Australia provide precompetitive geoscience data to lower exploration risk. Mostly this has been geophysical data to see through cover – MinEx CRC is developing new tools and opportunities to sample bedrock directly by drilling.

MinEx CRC was established in 2018 under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre program ( MinEx CRC has three Programs: Program 1 is developing new drilling technologies; Program 2 is developing new ways of gaining data from drilling; and Program 3 is the National Drilling Initiative (NDI).

The NDI is conducting drilling campaigns in selected areas as determined by each sponsoring geological survey. During September-November 2020, two campaigns are underway on behalf of Geoscience Australia (GA) with the Northern Territory Geological Survey in the Barkly region of the Northern Territory. A program of 10 holes of depths between ~300-500 m is designed test a range of stratigraphic and mineral system targets in the East Tennant region. The East Tennant area was selected during GA’s Exploring for the Future Program ( as a possible extension to the Tennant Creek mineralised region. A single deep stratigraphic borehole (~2000 m) is underway to test the Carrara Sub-basin recently identified in the Barkly Seismic Program of the EFTF ( in the South Nicholson area. Both of these campaigns are being conducted using conventional drilling methods.

In 2021 two campaigns are expected to be conducted utilising the RoXplorer Coiled Tube drilling rig undergoing further development by MinEx CRC Program 1 ( MinEx CRC will conduct drilling on behalf of the GSWA in the East Yilgarn, and in two areas of the Delamerian for the GSSA. Further campaigns are planned for the North and South Cobar, Mundi, Dubbo and Forbes areas for the GSNSW, and the Tabberabberan for the GSV. Additional drilling campaigns are likely to be undertaken in other areas later in the life of the MinEx CRC.

MinEx CRC picks up from three previous CRCs: DET CRC for the RoXplorer and associated technologies; CRC LEME for exploration through cover using cover materials; and the pmd*CRC for mineral systems analysis. Taking a mineral systems approach, the Geological Architecture and Evolution project provides new data and interpretations in the drilled areas to underpin mineral systems analysis, and develops new technologies and methodologies for acquiring and interpreting this data.

The Targeting Mineral Systems in Covered Terranes project deploys fit-for-purpose data and geoscience analytical techniques designed to identify and map mineral system footprints within cover and underlying basement and apply a suite of mineral systems mapping tools designed to identify and prioritise areas of high prospectivity.

The Maximising the Value of Data and Drilling Through Cover project provides the tools and data infrastructure to facilitate upload and management of legacy and NDI drilling data delivered to stakeholders and researchers in near real-time, and to the broader geoscience community in efficient time frames.


Anthony is the Program 3/National Drilling Initiative Leader for the MinEx CRC, a joint appointment with Geoscience Australia. Anthony has worked at Geoscience Australia for 25 years in Minerals, Geothermal and Unconventional Gas, as well as Advice, Assessment and Promotions

Mineral and petroleum potential in the South Nicholson region, and the NDI Carrara 1 stratigraphic drill hole

Jarrett, Amber1,2, Bailey, Adam1, Carr, Lidena1, Henson, Paul1, Schofield, Anthony1,2, O’Rouke, Angela1,2, Roach, Ian1,2, Budd, Anthony1,2, Munson, Tim3, Williams, Ben3, Symmons, Jack3, Close, Dorothy3

1Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia, 2MinEx CRC, Canberra, Australia, 3Northern Territory Geological Survey, Darwin, Australia

The MinEx CRC-led National Drilling Initiative (NDI) is the world’s largest mineral exploration collaboration designed to undertake precompetitive geoscience research in underexplored, but potentially prospective regions. One of the first NDI projects is being undertaken in the South Nicholson region of the Northern Territory (NT) as a collaboration with Geoscience Australia and the Northern Territory Geological Survey.

The South Nicholson Basin, and underlying Lawn Hill Platform region, have the potential for sediment‑hosted base metal mineral deposits including critical minerals and hydrocarbons. The region is poorly understood compared with the neighbouring resource‑rich areas of the McArthur Basin and the Mount Isa Province. Providing baseline data in frontier basins is essential as legacy data coverage can often be inadequate for making investment decisions, particularly with new commodities where exploration may not yet have provided the required information.

In 2017, Geoscience Australia acquired the L210 South Nicholson Deep Crustal Seismic Reflection Survey. This survey demonstrated the existence of an approximately 1550 km2 sedimentary depocentre underlying the surface sedimentary rocks of the Georgina Basin, and coincident with a prominent gravity low. This depocentre has been termed the ‘Carrara Sub‑basin’ and its successions may host a continuation of the resource-rich rocks located on the northern Lawn Hill Platform of northwest Queensland, in addition to South Nicholson stratigraphy that has never been sampled by drill core.

MinEx CRC and its partners seek to better understand the geology and resource potential of the Carrara Sub‑basin through the drilling of the first deep vertical stratigraphic borehole in the region –the NDI Carrara 1 stratigraphic borehole. This borehole has been designed to answer key scientific questions suggested by Geoscience Australia and the Northern Territory Geological Survey including determining geological and geochemical characteristics of sedimentary units from fresh drill core, identifying any evidence of alteration or fluid flow, and finally determining whether there are favourable indicators for the presence of mineral or petroleum systems. To address these questions, both physical samples (e.g. drill core and cuttings) and downhole data (e.g. wireline geophysical data) will be acquired over the entire borehole interval, to a depth of about 2000 m.

Drilling of NDI Carrara 1 is set to be completed by the end of 2020. This presentation will provide a rationale for drilling the NDI Carrara 1 stratigraphic borehole and will present preliminary data generated through drilling.

The South Nicholson NDI has already provided and integrated new geoscience data and knowledge in the region, and NDI Carrara 1 will allow for direct testing of resource potential. This precompetitive data is fundamental to underpinning increased industry investment and sustainable economic development in this greenfield region of northern Australia.


Amber Jarrett is a Geochemist in the Minerals, Energy and Groundwater Division, Geoscience Australia. Her research interests include petroleum geochemistry, basin hosted resource potential, isotopes, biomarkers and early life. Amber graduated with a BSc (Hons) in 2008, majoring in both Geology and Biology, and a PhD in 2014 from ANU.


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