MAC/20: Mines and Communities

PNG: Giant geological surveys to provide information for mining venture

Published by MAC on 2006-04-03

PNG: Giant geological surveys to provide information for mining venture

Radio Australia, Pacific Beat

3rd April 2006

Papua New Guinea has launched two huge new geological surveys which, it hopes, will provide the information to spark a whole new generation of mining and resource development. Earlier this month, the largest airborne geological survey ever attempted in PNG began in the highlands. At the same time, ships are mapping structures in the Gulf of Papua in over 100,000 square kilometres of ocean.

Presenter/Interviewer: Jemima Garrett Speakers: Warwick Greville, consultant, Fugro Ltd; Terry McConnell, Managing Director, Fugro Airborne Surveys; John Kulala, national program director, EU aid project

GARRETT: A new generation of technology is revolutionising resource exploration.

In the PNG Highlands, European Union money is pay for a four-year survey, breathtaking in its size and ambition.

The helicopter-based survey will see pilots flown 212,000 kilometres of survey lines at just 100 metres above the tree tops.

Terry McConnell, Managing Director of Fugro Airborne Surveys, the company managing the project, says the data produced will be far more accurate and detailed than anything produced before.

MCCONNELL: By flying much lower and by flying much tighter line spacing, we're collecting data in a much higher resolution, smaller space between each data point.

So, the ultimate resolution of the maps that we produce are going to be very much more precise and very much more detailed than what has been sensed before.

GARRETT: So, what does that mean for the chances of mining companies looking to these areas that you will have mapped for new opportunities?

MCCONELL: Well, the more detailed the map the less risk they have in going into a new area and trying to determine what's going on geologically.

The more detailed the map the better clues they get in regards to where the ore bodies might be hiding.

So, in any survey that we do around the world, the higher the detail, the better the chances are that the mining companies will be able to detect the ore bodies that might be hiding there.

GARRETT: The Papua New Guinea Government is a shrewd and sophisticated player in the mining and resource world.

Current high commodity prices and revamped mining and tax legislation have created a boom in the industry.

John Kulala, national program director for the EU aid project, wants the new survey work to ensure the boom continues for decades to come.

KULALA: Basically, the survey of the PNG highlands is in that providing pretty competent information to create exploration investments and eventually result in new mine developments.

GARRETT: Now, you've put 25 million Euro of aid money into that. What is PNG hoping to get in return?

KULALA: Basically it's around 60 million Kina. What we hope in the long term after the research and the test review implemented under the World Bank project and the predicted long term increase in commodity prices. This new program will make Papua New Guinea one of the world's most interesting places to explore for ............. and base metals.

GARRETT: So in fact, your looking for a whole new generation of resource projects in Papua New Guinea?

KULALA: Basically, yes.

GARRETT: And just how big could this industry become in Papua New Guinea?

KULALA: Well, hopefully, we can develop new mines as big as Bougainville Copper, Lihir, Porgera and a project of that magnitude.

GARRETT: The survey in the Gulf of Papua is looking for oil and gas in waters off the coast of Gulf, Central and Milne Bay Provinces.

Survey coordinator, Warwick Greville, says the work is at its midpoint and due to be completed at the end of May.

GREVILLE: We are very encouraged by the results we have seen.

This survey will collect the most modern data recorded in the Gulf and, as I say, we're very encouraged by the results that we've seen initially.

GARRETT: The Papua New Guinea Government has announced that it will be taking bids for exploration acreages. Companies will be able to buy your data to see if it's worth bidding. What sort of interest are you expecting?

GREVILLE: We are expecting considerable interest in that the area of much of the area is indeed water and there's been very little exploration or almost no exploration in that area to date.

So, very little is known about this area and we feel it based on work that is previous or recently been done. It is quite perspective, so we're expecting a lot of interest.

GARRETT: This water, as you said, is deep - in fact up to 2.5 kilometres. Doesn't that put companies off?

GREVILLE: The survey actually covers shallow and deep water, but the deep water area would be an area that would be looked at by the larger companies, because drilling in those sort of water depths is expensive.

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