Revving with reserves, exploration and investment

UNDERPINNED by resources in the Cooper and Otway Basins, South Australia has had a prosperous production history, and is now experiencing a major rise in exploration and unprecedented investment.
According to a report by the SA Government in January, the state “has considerable potential for petroleum and geothermal energy, particularly in light of new unconventional gas plays in the Cooper Basin, and significant petroleum potential in the state’s frontier basins”.
The State Government’s multi-million dollar Plan for Accelerating Exploration (PACE) initiative was designed to attract further mineral and petroleum exploration,
and has dramatically changed the resources landscape.
Implemented in 2004 as a five-year incentive, the plan was extended and is now known as PACE 2020.
It is divided into four key work programs – exploration, mining, global and energy – and maintains the core principles of economic stimulation, accessibility to land,
development of sustainable exploration and mining, increasing cultural awareness and balancing development with the environment.
These activities are supported by the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (SACOME): a non-government, not-for-profit organisation that works to
promote the state’s long-term resources sustainability.
“SACOME is an industry body set up to lobby for, and look out for, the interests of both the minerals and energy sectors,” SACOME council president and Mithril
Resources founding chairman John Roberts  said.Mr Roberts was involved in SACOME’s establishment in the early 1980s, at which time he was the Chamber’s second president before relocating to the US.
“I came back several years ago, as president, and since then we’ve grown quite dramatically – the reason being that the minerals boom happened at about the same
time. It was a serendipity that it all came together and now it’s quite a large chamber,” Mr Roberts said.
He added that although the bulk of SACOME’s work was in relation to hard minerals, the Chamber had a number of energy industry members including Petratherm, BP Developments Australia, Strike Energy and Santos.
“We have a total in excess of 300 member companies, so it’s quite a large and representative organisation. We are active in all kinds of areas [such as] research and
supporting our members. We undertake a lot of liaison work with the State Government with respect to the rules and regulations governing the industry; it’s truly the pre-imminent minerals industry body in South Australia,” Mr Roberts said.
Mr Roberts outlined the immense impact that PACE had made in the state, saying that it had paid off “handsomely” as a strategy.
“The State Government in South Australia made a decision back in the early 2000s to foster minerals exploration as a potentially significant untapped sector in South Australia, so they put together the PACE program and they tackled quite a number of different issues,” he said.
Mr Roberts said that the State Government had “beefed up” and continued to support its “already excellent” mines department with respect to providing pre-exploration data, and had instituted what he referred to as “a rather unique policy” to help fund exploration drilling that had proved to be very successful.
“I’ve really got to take my hat off to the State Government; [PACE] has been a success story, starting with its decision to foster exploration and welcome exploration
companies into the state,” Mr Roberts said.
He added that a number of successful oil and gas companies had their start in the Cooper Basin.
“The Cooper Basin – which is the most important oil and gas geological entity we’ve got in the state – is world-class. At the recent APPEA [Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association] conference, APPEA chief executive David Byers reported that a recent report done for the US Energy Department estimated that there was still enough recoverable gas in the Cooper Basin to power Adelaide for 6600 years, which I thought was a very impressive statistic,” he said
“Also, South Australia is leading the way in the development of geothermal and hot rocks power sources. It isn’t yet a commercial reality but there’s quite a lot of
work going on. We also have the country’s largest wind power sector, so there’s quite a bit happening in energy, both directly and indirectly through renewable energy.”
According to CSIRO’s website, Australia has some of the best hot rocks resources in the world, which could potentially provide a “bountiful” supply of clean energy. However, Mr Roberts acknowledged that renewable energy was not likely to be the complete solution.
“I think we will head in a direction to utilise clean energy sources as much as we possibly can, but the kind of handicap that wind [for example] has is that there’s no
guarantee of the wind blowing all the time, although it has become a significant part of the power scene in South Australia,” he said.
“I think ultimately we will also have to accept, the world will have to accept, that a significant component of our power supply will have to be nuclear. Nuclear [power] is environmentally-friendly with respect to no CO2 [carbon dioxide] discharge, but of course you need to have the special facilities to handle the waste and the fuel.”
Mr Roberts said that for the mining industry in general in 2013, he expected to see exploration continue at a good pace.

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