One of the biggest shifts to hit the world of mineral drilling in New South Wales and across the world is in the realm of mineral energy drilling. Expenditure for mineral exploration drilling saw its last peak in 2011/2012, and had seen a decline in the years that followed. As of 2019, this has turned around massively. Mineral drilling has now matched the previous peak and looks to still be on the rise. The biggest reason for this is the revolution in mineral energy drilling. But what is mineral energy drilling, and why is it becoming so prevalent now?
First, the basics. Mineral exploration drilling is a process of performing numerous sample drills in a new area to discover the presence of valuable minerals beneath the surface. Once these minerals have been located and the veins mapped out, more intensive drill projects are performed to reach these veins and bring the minerals up to the surface. Although this is an intensive process, it can be extremely lucrative due to the value of the minerals on the current market.
Energy mineral drilling is focused on the minerals that are used in the creation of energy. In previous years, one of the most important energy minerals was coal. However, as new energy technologies come on the market, the emphasis is shifting into other areas. For example, due to higher demand for nickel/cobalt and copper, the quarterly mineral exploration expenditure has doubled in NSW over the past two years. And this is just the beginning.
The new energy technologies driving this shift include revolutions in battery technology and battery powered devices and the recent surge in electric vehicles. According to The International Energy Agency’s 2018 World Energy Outlook, 20% of all vehicles sold worldwide by 2040 will be electric. This has been made possible by advances in electric technology that make these vehicles more efficient than ever before. And this new technology is completely dependent upon a new generation of energy minerals.
The most important minerals for current and coming energy technologies include the classics, such as copper, nickel, and zinc, and include some new to the game: cobalt, lithium, and vanadium. This is especially important for the Australian drilling industry. As it currently stands, Australia is the third largest global exporter of copper and zinc, and significant deposits exist all throughout the country. It’s also the fifth largest global exporter of zinc. In the past, these minerals have been important in steel production and infrastructure. However, with the development of battery-powered renewable technology on the rise and being adopted en mass, the value of these materials will continue to rise dramatically as their demand skyrockets in the energy industry.
The biggest shifts come in with the new energy materials: lithium, cobalt, and vanadium. Lithium has gotten a good bit of the popular press, as it’s a key material for Tesla battery packs and other long life, high efficiency batteries. Recognising its importance on the current world market, a number of mining companies have begun to focus their efforts on lithium. Novonix, Pilbara Minerals, and Altura Mining have gotten in the lithium game at the ground stage, and the Federal Industry department now dedicates an entire chapter of their Resources and Energy Quarterly to lithium, alongside gas, coal, copper, and other more traditional materials.
Cobalt has become increasingly important as the demand for electric vehicles (EVs) has increased across the globe. Cobalt is one of the main materials used to extend the life of heavy duty electric car batteries. At the moment, the EV industry accounts for a solid 50% of the industry demand. Vanadium is one of the newcomers to the energy mineral revolution. It is used as an efficient alternative to lithium and cobalt batteries. This means that vanadium exploration and collection is in the early stages, and there’s massive potential for companies and professional drilling contractors to capitalise on this resource.
If you’d like to know more about energy mineral drilling or mineral exploration drilling, feel free to contact us. At BG Drilling, we pride ourselves in providing the highest standard of environmentally conscious drilling services.