By Sarah Byrne

PAPUA New Guinea’s Minerals and Resources Authority (MRA) national geochemical sampling project, which started in late May, is one of the Authority’s key projects for this year.

Speaking with PNG Resources, Geological Survey Division executive manager Nathan Mosusu said the project aimed to produce a multi-element signature map of the country.

“It is anticipated the map will guide potential investors to areas of their interest, for further exploration activities,” he said.

“For instance, investors specifically targeting Ni (Nickel) should be able to see from the map, areas with high percentage of Ni,” he added.

Studies have started in PNG’s East New Britain, West New Britain, Manus, New Ireland and Milne Bay provinces.

Conducted in partnership with China Geological Survey’s (CGS) Nanjing Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources, the project is expected to run for between three and five years in order to cover the country, the MRA said.

Geological Survey Division staff will help collect samples from streams throughout the country that will be sent to CGS for laboratory analysis.

Mr Mosusu said sampling will be done mostly in areas that are easily accessible by road or boat, with sampling teams needing to be prepared to spend long terms in the field.

The MRA said the CGS will fund the analysis and it is anticipated that a total of 56 elements will be analysed.

Mr Mosusu said the MRA anticipates the project will boost mineral exploration by guiding investors to areas of their interest.

“There is documentation of the number of ore deposits discovered through geochemical sampling. Hence, this project in the long-term is aimed at finding new ore deposits that will be developed into mines in the next few years,” he added.

At the same time, the Western PNG Airborne Geophysical Survey final datasets are expected to be released towards the end of 2015.

Conducted by GSD and flown by GPX Surveys of Western Australia, who were awarded the contract to fly the area in 2014, the cost of the K11 million project is borne by the MRA.

The survey is into its final phase of acquiring geophysical data over the Western PNG border with Indonesia, and the data will either confirm known prospects or pick up new ones for further ground surveys.

Located between the Ok Tedi porphyry copper deposit and the Frieda River porphyry Cu-Au project, the survey covers an area of 14,110 square kilometres to be covered by 30,745 line kilometre data.

“With the down turn in the mineral industry, the pace of mineral exploration activities in the country slowed, with most exploration companies restructuring and altering work plans,” the MRA said.

“The Mineral Resources Authority sees this project as an incentive to companies, by acquiring the data and having it available to the companies at minimal costs,” it added.

Geological mapping continues to be a top priority for the MRA’s Geological Survey Division (GSD) with several mapping projects planned for 2015.

According to the GSD, the recent innovations of geophysics (both ground and airborne) coupled with geochemistry and recent advances in geothermal applications makes the technique of geological mapping a necessity tool and equally a critical element in defining the geology of an area.

The 2015 planned activities to producing map sheets are; Wasa 1:100 000 scale map sheet, Yule 1:100 000 scale map sheet and Albert Edward 1:100 000 scale map sheet.

All within the Goilala District of Central Province, the projects follows on from the previous Wau and Biaru map sheets, to give a new geological interpretation of the Owen Stanley Metamorphic Terrane which encompasses the mid-south eastern segment of PNG, the GSD explained.

Other projects planned for 2015 include, the Laloki mineral investigation, Sepik basin analysis for coal potential, REE commodity assessment, mineral potential reporting for provinces with mining and advanced mineral exploration activities, including reassessment of geological terranes through compilation of existing data and exploration results to provide an update to the PNG geology and mineralisation framework.

Scientists in the GSD are currently running intensive PNG geothermal studies in East and West New Britain, Milne Bay and New Ireland, while Madang, Morobe and East Sepik have been visited for studies.

The GSD said the Pacific Rim of Fire gave rise to geothermal activities; and energy from these can be harnessed to produce power in PNG.

“Other than for energy reasons, geothermal sites can be suitable tourism sites. Countries like New Zealand capitalise on this for their tourism industry,” the GSD said.

According to the GSD little is known of Papua New Guinea’s geothermal sites due to minimal historical data and reports.

The GSD said with neither legislative nor policy guidelines the MRA have halted any applications for licences by explorers and developers.