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As Australia's most influential mining event, IMARC connects global mining leaders with technology, finance and the future. The current flux in the mining and resources sector means exploration promotion is more important than ever.

In a year of COVID-19 disruption, Australia's mining and resources sector is providing economic stability as profits continue their record-breaking run.

More than 11 per cent of Australia's economic activity comes from the mining and resources sector, highlighting the importance of conferences like the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC), which enables the likes of Geoscience Australia to proudly showcase their achievements. As Australia's most influential mining event, IMARC connects global mining leaders with technology, finance, and the future. The current flux in the mining and resources sector means exploration promotion is more important than ever.

"This past year has been one of the most difficult on record for businesses to not only continue to operate, but also to be able to talk about their achievements and milestones," said Geoscience Australia Director of Mineral Resources and Promotions, Allison Britt.

"This coming year looks to be returning the industry to some semblance of normality with events opening up such as IMARC in 2022, enabling us to network again and to gather again as an industry," said Britt.

"That's really what we've been missing over the past 18 months," said Britt.

"We've all managed to not only survive through the pandemic but thrive. But we've missed the chance to share these stories!" said Britt.

This sentiment reaffirms the importance of initiatives like Geoscience Australia's Exploring for the Future, which has dedicated the last five years to discovering Australia's resource and exploration potential. The program, which uses innovative techniques to gather new pre-competitive scientific data and information about the potential mineral, energy and groundwater resources in Australia, has been heralded a massive success.

Britt noted the program's recent achievements.

"Australia's world-leading resources sector plays a vital role in our nation's ongoing prosperity and the resources sector has, and continues to be, a standout performer during the COVID- 19 pandemic," said Britt.

Federal Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Hon. Keith Pitt, who will be speaking at IMARC, acknowledged the unparalleled contribution made by the resources industry through this crisis.

"Our industry is powering the Australian economy and at all levels of government we need to be loud and proud of what the mining industry has done and continues to achieve. "Mining has always been the lifeblood of the Australian economy," said Minister Pitt.

Victoria's golden opportunity

Victorian gold production reached its highest level in more than a century in the 2019-2020 period, and according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), minerals exploration spending across the Victoria is at record levels, increasing 35 per cent to $183.8 million in 2021.

Thanks to their use in technology products and infrastructure projects, an increase in demand for critical resources like copper has also led to significant exploration growth within the state.

"Gold continues to be the most explored commodity in Australia with expenditure in 2020-21 amounting to $1.530 billion, an increase of 32 per cent on 2019-20," said Britt.
"While copper and iron ore remain the next most sought-after commodities," said Britt.

Indeed, in the past 15 years the Victorian Government has actively developed and promoted support programs for the mining and resources sector including the state's first mineral resources strategy, State of Discovery: Mineral Resources Strategy 2018-2023, and the Victoria METS Export Hub.

The foundation for Victoria's current exploration interest was laid more than 15 years ago by the Geological Survey of Victoria (GSV), where the geoscientific knowledge specific to the Victoria's mineral systems has been shared openly.

This aligns with one of Geoscience Australia's core aims, to make their data publicly available to reduce technical risk for exploration, help companies avoid duplication and unnecessary expenditure, and to provide early insights for companies to target their exploration activities.

"The pre-competitive data publicly released under the program has become a key tool used by companies to support their exploration investment and decisions," said Britt.

Geological Survey of Victoria Director, Paul McDonald, has a similar story with GSV.

"Through the best geoscience data, strategic ground releases and State of Discovery, the right conditions have been set to see continued state-wide growth in minerals exploration," said McDonald.

"Earth Resources Regulation has received a boost in funding to ensure they can deliver timely regulatory approvals and improve key processes for industry and businesses," said McDonald.

The attendance of Austmine and the METS Export Hub at IMARC reflects the strong interest from the investment community, and State Government support for the Victorian mining and resources sector.

South Australia's path to discovery

South Australia's Department for Energy and Mining reported a steady increase in exploration spending and activities for South Australia, including a renewed interest in nickel, copper, rare earths, graphite, magnetite and uranium – all of which will play a vital role in an electrified society.

"There has been a definite pivot in exploration trends, while traditional commodities and metals still dominate, the landscape is changing to meet the needs of the looming decarbonisation and electrification of our lives," said South Australia's Department for Energy and Mining.

Strategy 2028, Geoscience Australia's 10-year mineral exploration investment stimulus plan, has also recognised this growing need. The strategy has committed to the promotion of mineral exploration investment and the establishment of new areas, including sites for the critical minerals used in battery storage technology.

"This work is important for the future supply of critical minerals for advanced manufacturing, communications and computing, defence, space and health applications, and low-carbon energy technologies," said Britt.

Furthermore, Australia's exploration for critical minerals such as lithium and rare earth elements has been increasing the last four years and accounted for $222 million of mineral exploration expenditure in the 2020-21 period.

As part of the State Government's support for its mining and resources sector, programs like the Accelerated Discovery Initiative (ADI) have granted about $7.5 million to projects in its first two rounds alone. The success of the open-source data competition, Explore SA: The Gawler Challenge, is a call for geologists and data scientists from across the globe to help uncover new exploration targets in the state's Gawler Craton region, also derived an estimated $350 million worth of new publicly available geoscientific data for the region.

"The South Australian government continues to invest in emerging opportunities that benefit the search for resources beneath the ground, clean energy technology, and the development of skills, expertise, and innovation within the workforce of the mining sectors," said the Department for Energy and Mining.

Battery metals continue to feature prominently in South Australian exploration as the sector continues to evolve. Argonaut, Rex Minerals and Renascor Resources are attending IMARC to highlight the importance of South Australia's contribution to a clean energy future.

Queensland navigating the future

The Queensland State Government's recent budget for 2022 promised about $5 million for various programs, including $2.5 million allocated to the Collaborative Exploration Initiative grants, and $2.2 million to support the development and expansion of the New Economy Minerals sector in Queensland.

This increase reflects the booming exploration expenditure over the past financial year, with the ABS reporting an increase of $638 million to $708 million. Queensland's growth in expenditure for base metals increased substantially over the past financial year, with copper, silver, lead, zinc, nickel and cobalt now at 10 per cent.

Queensland State Resources Minister Scott Stewart said that the resources sector plays a vital role in the state and is pivotal to Queensland's plan for economic recovery from COVID-19.

"We know that supporting the exploration industry is important for finding new deposits and developing new projects," said Minister Stewart.

"That is why we are backing the sector with a range of grants and opportunities for explorers," said Minister Stewart.

At a more regional scale, the first phase of Geoscience Australia's Exploring for the Future program resulted in a rush to the Mount Isa-Tennant Creek area after new data for the region encouraged exploration companies to take up tenements covering more than 160,000 square kilometres.

"The work undertaken by the Exploring for the Future program has doubled exploration tenements in the region between Tennant Creek and Mount Isa. Seven small to medium-sized companies who hold exploration tenements in this region raised over $50 million in capital on the ASX last financial year," said Britt.

Additionally, the Queensland State Government's Open Data Portal provides the opportunity to search, view and interact with maps, imagery, property, resources and other specialist data from the mining and resource sector as freely as possible, aligning with Geoscience Australia's goals for accessible information.

"In these challenging times, programs like Exploring for the Future continue to deliver the next round of investment and job creation, positioning Australian industry to meet the resource demands and of a changing world and supporting our miners, explorers and farmers with the geoscience information they need to make informed decisions," said Britt.



The International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) is where global mining leaders connect with technology, finance, and the future. Now in its 8th year, it is Australia's largest mining event, bringing together over 8,000 decision makers, mining leaders, policy makers, investors, commodity buyers, technical experts, innovators, and educators from over 130 countries for three days of learning, deal-making and unparalleled networking. IMARC is developed in collaboration with its founding partners the Victorian State Government of Australia, Austmine, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) and Mines and Money.

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carbon emissions

Following international pressure, the Australian government has promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

In a last-minute commitment after months of debate, the Australian government has promised to reach net zero emissions by 2050, expecting to meet the goal largely through technology development.

The move comes following international pressure as Australia had previously refused to join countries in pledging to meet the target ahead of the United Nations' COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.

However, the plan unveiled on Tuesday (October 26), which includes a government investment of AU$20 billion, does not strengthen the target set for 2030, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying Australia is on track to beat its Paris Agreement goal, cutting emissions by 30 to 35 percent by that decade.

"We will do this the Australian way," Morrison said ahead of a press conference, announcing investments in new energy technologies like hydrogen and low-cost solar.

An Australian hydrogen industry could be worth more than AU$50 billion in 2050, according to the government. Meanwhile, expanding production and processing of metals like lithium, nickel, copper and uranium could together be worth around AU$85 billion in exports in 2050.

That said, Australia will continue to be heavily dependent on fossil fuels as the plan will not shut down coal or gas production. The country is a major coal player, with the third largest reserves in the world, but its reliance on coal-fired power makes it one of the world's largest carbon emitters per capita.

"We want our heavy industries, like mining, to stay open, remain competitive and adapt, so they remain viable for as long as global demand allows," Morrison said. "We will not support any mandate — domestic or international — to force closure of our resources or agricultural industries."

Australia's desire to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 is a step in the right direction, Prakash Sharma, Wood Mackenzie's Asia Pacific head of markets and transitions, said.

"Our analysis shows that Australia can reach net zero emissions by 2050," he said. The country's major trading partners — China, Japan and South Korea — are already in transition towards that goal.

According to Wood Mackenzie, nearly 83 percent of Australia's power generation will come from solar and wind by 2050, as compared to about 20 percent last year. Natural gas, bio energy, geothermal and small modular reactors will supply the remaining 17 percent in power output. Coal into power is expected to be phased out by 2035.

"Although the pathway requires complete transformation of its traditional energy and export sectors, there are significant opportunities to capitalise on and protect future revenues," Sharma said.

"This will require Australia to become a significant player in low-carbon hydrogen trade as well as being able to offer carbon storage and offset services."

Meanwhile, the Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed the prime minister's commitment to reach net zero by 2050, but said the mid-century goal is only meaningful with deep cuts to climate pollution this decade.

"Unless the government sets the wheels in motion to cut our emissions in half by 2030, it is making climate change worse and turning its back on the opportunities," said Chief Executive Kelly O'Shanassy.

"Australia can become a global clean energy superpower in the next decade by replacing coal and gas with renewable energy," she added. "We have abundant clean energy, tools and talent, but we cannot delay any longer."

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Priscila Barrera, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

map showing Victoria, Australia

The state of Victoria completed an inquiry on cannabis earlier this year. Will it actually change anything for the drug?

In August, the government of Victoria, Australia, released the results of its inquiry into the use of cannabis, taking into account 1,475 written submissions, dozens of expert witnesses and two minority reports.

A few months on, Australia-focused cannabis investors are wondering whether the document's findings will have an impact on cannabis use in the state, or even in the country as a whole.

The short answer? Probably not. But there's more to the story than that.

Why did Victoria conduct a cannabis inquiry?

Back in May 2019, Victoria's Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee agreed to complete an inquiry on cannabis in the state. Although it was initially due for completion in March 2020, the deadline was extended twice, first to March 2021 and then again to August 2021.

Chaired by Reason Party Member of Parliament Fiona Patten, whose party supports legalising cannabis, the committee broadly looked at two streams of cannabis policy reform. One, the legalisation of cannabis for adult personal use, and two, a legalised and regulated cannabis market.

The report puts forth 17 recommendations and 21 findings, but Patten said after its release that the Labor-heavy committee banded together to water down certain recommendations prior to the drafting of the report.

For example, according to reports from the Age, the first recommendation of legalising cannabis for adult personal use in Victoria became "Recommendation 1: That the Victorian Government investigates the impacts of legalising cannabis for adult personal use in Victoria."

Evidence from the inquiry suggests that legalising cannabis would keep young and vulnerable people out of the criminal justice system, with state parliament estimates suggesting Victoria would save AU$725 million over 10 years in police and justice costs.

Key highlights from Victoria's cannabis inquiry

Recommendations from the report broadly fall several categories: investigating a legalised and regulated market; health and safety; and education for minors.

Here's a wrap up of the main items the Victorian government was told to look at:

  • Investigate the impact of legalising cannabis for adult personal use in Victoria.
  • Consider referring an inquiry to Victorian Law Reform Commission to investigate state and Commonwealth laws inhibiting legislation and regulation of the cannabis market.
  • Provide ongoing funding to alcohol and drug sector organisations for drug diversion programs, and further funding to areas in regional and rural Victoria.
  • Implement a road safety campaign about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis.
  • Look at alternative testing methods for "drug driving," as current methods mean THC can be detected in a person's system long after being "affected by the drug," especially in the case of medicinal cannabis patients.
  • Advocate to the National Cabinet to remove unnecessary barriers for accessing medicinal cannabis.
  • Seek expert help on school drug education, avoid stigmatising users and promote help-seeking behaviour.

Minority reports included in Victoria's inquiry

Liberal Democrat David Limbrick, who participated in the inquiry, was "extremely disappointed" with the last-minute changes mentioned above and submitted a minority report in favour of legalisation.

It broadly supports the public policy Liberal Democrats have towards cannabis which is: "The Liberal Democrats support the legalisation of use, cultivation, processing, possession, transport and sale of cannabis, with protection of minors and penalties for driving while impaired."

A second minority report is also included — it comes from the Liberals and Nationals, both of which are firmly against legalising cannabis in order to protect public health and children. Signed by three members, it states that legalising cannabis only provides ready access and no deterrent to prevent cannabis use. They further wrote:

"The Liberals and Nationals support drug education programs warning of the harms of illicit substances, we support diversion programs that help get people off drugs, and we support other support services for those addicted to drugs. However, we do not support legalising cannabis."

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Glenn Weir told the inquiry in June that the use, cultivation and trafficking of marijuana causes "significant harm," and said he is firmly opposed to legalisation.

Will the inquiry impact cannabis legalisation in Australia?

Any hopes of legalisation were quickly dashed after the report's release by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, whose focus is on job creation and economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to reporters after it came out, he said he has "no intention" of legalising cannabis.

"If you want to know why, then have a look at the sections in the mental health royal commission that talk about dual diagnosis, drug-induced psychosis," he told reporters outside parliament.

"Others have a different view, they're entitled to have a different view, but as the leader of the government I've just made the government's position very clear."

The lack of support by major state parties for the Victorian inquiry may speak to a wider delay nationally for supporting decriminalising and legalising cannabis. Combined with the narrow defeat of the cannabis legalisation referendum in New Zealand, it does not look like legalisation is likely anytime soon.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.