The Northern Territory is highly prospective for copper, with a large range of deposits and deposit styles, and nearly two million tonnes of historical production.
1.98 Mt copper
Remaining JORC resources
1.29 Mt copper
The Territory has a strong copper exploration industry, with a large number of companies exploring for copper in a range of greenfield and brownfield settings. There is no current copper production, but the Jervois copper project in the Aileron Province has all mining approvals in place.
The Aileron Province is a significant emerging greenfields copper province. The most significant known deposit and most advanced copper project is at Jervois, 300km northeast of Alice Springs. Mineralisation at Jervois occurs in a series of strata-bound, subvertical sulfide-rich deposits. There are numerous other copper deposits in the Aileron Province, with a variety of mineralisation styles.
The Warramunga Province hosts the Tennant Creek mineral field, where the majority of the Territory’s copper production has been sourced from ironstone-hosted gold-copper-bismuth deposits. Significant copper-gold resources remain in the Tennant Creek field, and the associated Rover field, 70km to the southwest. Substantial exploration activity for copper-gold is also underway in the informally named ‘East Tennant’ region, in the Barkly Tableland east of Tennant Creek, where prospective geology is at explorable depths.
Other companies with exploration projects for copper and copper-gold in the Tenannt Creek field include Emmerson Resources, Rio Tinto Exploration, Truscott Mining Ltd and King River Resources Ltd. In the East Tennant region, explorers targeting copper and gold in undercover extensions of the Warramunga Province include Newcrest Mining, Strategic Energy Resources Ltd, Inca Minerals Ltd, Greenvale Mining, Middle Island Resources and Red Metal Ltd.
The greater McArthur Basin, which includes the Palaeo-Mesoproterozoic McArthur and Birrindudu basins and Tomkinson Province, and equivalent successions in the South Nicholson Basin and Lawn Hill Platform have substantial and largely untested potential for sediment-hosted copper mineralisation. The only significant copper production to date has been from breccia pipes at the Redbank deposits in the south eastern McArthur Basin, but exploration activity is currently focussed across large areas, seeking larger scale sediment-hosted copper systems.
Since 2019, there has been substantial uptake of exploration tenure for sediment-hosted copper in the Barkly Tableland region, Beetaloo Sub-basin and other parts of the greater McArthur Basin. Encounter Resources Ltd have large tenement holdings in these areas, and in 2021 they finalised an agreement with BHP for a $22 million joint venture and earn-in arrangement on their Elliot copper project. Other companies exploring for sediment-hosted copper include Teck Australia Pty Ltd, Red Metal Ltd, Resolution Minerals Ltd and Greenvale Mining Ltd.
McGloin, 2017. The significance of metaexhalites, seafloor alteration and retrograde processes for metamorphosed mineral deposits: examples of distinct alteration styles from the Aileron Province. AGES 2017 Proceedings.