Exploration in the Shadow of the Headframe
Success comes to the ardent explorer in many different ways. Exciting geology and the prospect of discovery have drawn geologists to many far-flung corners of the earth. In the last decade however, in a world of declining commodity prices, rampant company mergers, shrinking exploration budgets and threats to personal security, we have seen a very distinctive move away from “greenfields” (or grassroots) exploration. The focus has clearly shifted to rocks we know about and things we understand, close to our existing mines, the so-called “brownfields” exploration. There is nothing really very profound about this shift, it is the logical consequence of geology and economic pressures (“mineral deposits occur in clusters so lets use our mill to treat more ore”), but in many mining areas of the world in the 1980s, focussed near-mine exploration was not happening. Larger exploration budgets and adventurous managers existed in those days.
The biggest consequences of the shift are the exciting new discoveries at the edge of the mining lease and extensions to the lives of mines, which were previously sentenced to closure. Another, perhaps more significant, aspect, for us as geologists, is that we have become more attuned to our colleagues in the other part of the business. Exploration geologists are talking to mine geologists and mining engineers; they act as a team and are focussed on survival.
Some would argue that the shift, whilst logical, may, in the longer term also threaten the life-blood of the industry. New discoveries are an important driving force in the mining industry and greenfields exploration should not be completely abandoned. Brand new discoveries in virgin territory provide inspiration for geologists and miners, and provide another opportunity for near-mine exploration
This year the Sydney Mineral Exploration Discussion Group, the NSW Branch of the Australian Institute of Geoscientists and the NSW Branch of the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists have put together a programme of speakers with the common topic: “Exploration in the Shadow of the Headframe: Getting a New Life on Lease”. While it is clear that the theme is not unique (a recent SEG symposium had almost the same wording), the topic is extremely popular. This symposium has assembled a variety of high quality speakers who not only describe experiences in a wide range of near-mine discoveries, but also add their thoughts on different corporate philosophies or introduce new technologies to assist our work in the future.
In typical SMEDG and AIG tradition this symposium is designed to be an inexpensive, relaxed forum of discussion with speakers and the committee giving their time on a voluntary basis. In the past, the high quality of the presentations and the subject material has rivalled any international or national conference and this year is no exception. Again this year with the help of the ASEG, we encouraged students and unemployed or underemployed geologists to participate and maintain their ties with the industry. Subsidised registrations are made possible by the generous contributions of our Major Sponsors, ALS Chemex, MIM Ltd, Encom Technology and the NSW Department of Mineral Resources
Thanks also go to Roger Smyth-King from Contour Graphics and Margaret Greentree at Golden Cross Resources Ltd for their behind-the-scenes contributions.