NDI Campaign 1: East Tennant


The National Drilling Initiative (NDI) will manage and deliver drilling programs in multiple case study areas proposed by MinEx CRC’s partner geological survey organisations. The NDI vision is to drill multiple holes in a region to map the regional geology and architecture and define the potential for mineral systems in 3D. A range of drilling methods may be used however it is intended that the NDI will take advantage of new low-cost Coiled Tubing (CT) drilling technology and associated sensing, in order to the minimise environmental footprint and maximise the number of drill holes and the volume of data collected.

The National Drilling Initiative is not an exploration program itself, rather it seeks to provide new evidence about the existence of mineralising systems for exploration companies to then come in and take up the search. It is a necessary action by Government to lower the risk for explorers to come into previously unexplored areas. Without this pre-competitive work, explorers will invest their money elsewhere, probably outside of Australia



MinEx CRC is conducting the drilling program on behalf of Geoscience Australia and the Northern Territory Geological Survey as part of a long-running precompetitive geoscience program.



The East Tennant project area sits within the Tennant Creek to Mount Isa study area. It is located northeast of Tennant Creek and is defined by an approximately northeast-trending corridor centred on the Barkly Roadhouse in the Northern Territory.

The East Tennant area is almost entirely covered by sedimentary rocks of the Georgina Basin which obscure its potential to host mineral systems.

Despite the lack of exposed basement rocks in the area, it has been selected as an area for ongoing detailed geoscientific investigation using new ‘Exploring for the Future’ and legacy datasets. These include recognition of major structures, conductivity features in AusLAMP long-period magnetotelluric data, modelled iron oxide alteration, and modelled predicted mineral potential.

The Project will involve temporarily establishing up to 12 stratigraphic drill sites, one water bore and camps to accommodate field crews, with all sites to be fully rehabilitated.

The drilling campaign will have a duration of up to 4 months and is planned to be completed during the 2020 dry season/winter. The Project will require one or more multi-purpose mineral exploration-style drilling rig(s).

This project will be delivered in the following four stages:

  1. Establish project governance,
  2. Land access arrangements, permitting and contracting,
  3. Conduct drilling campaign,
  4. Wrap-up of field program and review.



The East Tennant project aims to open up a new frontier region for mineral exploration beneath the Barkly Tableland by understanding the fundamental geological framework of the region. This framework can then be interpreted to define and map the potential for undiscovered mineral resources. This will be achieved through detailed pre‑competitive geoscientific data acquisition aimed at refining the search space for mineral explorers.

Knowledge gained from the drilling and subsequent research will improve understanding of the covered geology in the Northern Territory and Queensland. It will also improve understanding of the mineral, energy and groundwater potential of the region.



MinEx CRC will consult landholders, local communities and other government agencies as required before and during major activities.



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In addition to drilling campaigns, MinEx CRC is undertaking the following three Projects to support the NDI.

Project 7: Maximising the Value of Data and Drilling Through Cover
The NDI will generate a vast amount of new data and add value to existing data. These data will need to be appropriately managed throughout the life of the MinEx CRC to maximise the value from the NDI. Current methods for managing drilling data require multiple software packages and data delivery systems and are generally undertaken after the completion of the program.

A streamlined approach to managing and integrating the many layers of complex drilling data will allow new methods such as machine learning to provide an objective analysis of the data, and will also result in significant efficiency gains including the ability to modify drilling programs in real-time. In contrast, the drilling rig and staff are in the field. Project 7 aims to deliver a single point of access to NDI drilling data for all stakeholders, which will be a data management and delivery system with in-built geospatial and data analytical tools and drill target optimisation algorithms.


Project 8: Geological Architecture and Evolution
Project 8 aims to provide new geoscience data and knowledge in the NDI case study areas via integration of geophysics and petrophysics, regolith and hydrogeology, alteration signatures, basin analysis, and igneous and metamorphic analysis. This project works closely with the NDI drilling to help re-assess what is known about the geology of each area before drilling and to identify gaps in our knowledge and develop a sampling rationale for the drilling program. After completion of the drilling, the new data will aid in the construction of 3D geological models and 4D reconstructions of the geological evolution of the case study areas and aid in the identification of known and potential mineral systems within. Project 8 will provide advice to assist program design for future drilling in covered terranes, including within the NDI case study areas.


Project 9: Targeting Mineral Systems in Covered Terranes
Project 9 is about the application of Mineral Systems thinking particularly in the NDI drilling areas, but also at the continental scale. Mineral Systems analysis is genetic a way of looking at how and why ore deposits form, and it provides a predictive ability of where we might find new undiscovered deposits mainly buried beneath cover rocks. In Project 9 we are going to focus on the key features necessary for forming any ore deposit, including the key geological inputs of metal and fluid sources, energy drivers, a pathway for the large amounts of fluid needed to carry the metals, the conditions of deposition, and of preservation.



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