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Mining the Territory

Northern Territory is home to a range of world-class projects, making mining the engine room of the Territory economy, writes NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson.

Mining has been big in Australia’s Northern Territory ever since the discovery of gold near Pine Creek, located 230 km south of Darwin, in the late 1800s. Back then, early Australian settlers braved the extremes of the outback – from the red deserts of Central Australia to the rivers of the tropical north – in search of fortune. Tales of lost gold reefs and the discovery of copper, mica, tin and wolfram fuelled mining production and exploration well into the 20th century. Those early days were hard and miners required certain qualities – toughness, vigour and determination – to succeed.

With advancements in technology and the growth of the Northern Territory, it is now a lot easier to mine up north. In fact, the Canadian Fraser Institute recently released a report that ranked the Northern Territory as the 11th easiest place in the world for mining companies to invest and do business. In the Territory there is a pro-active approach to mineral and energy development, particularly in exploration.

Traditionally exploration in the Territory has been particularly strong for commodities such as gold, copper and uranium. Although these commodities continue to be a major focus for explorers in the Territory, a number of new commodities are becoming increasingly important in the Territory. This includes iron ore, with the emerging projects of the Roper iron field, iron ore has the potential to stimulate the economy of the Roper River area for decades to come and support growth in the region. The past two years have also highlighted the Territory’s potential for ferroalloys and industrial commodities, with a number of new discoveries and emerging projects forcommodities such as rare earths, phosphate, potash, vanadium and tungsten.

In the past five years, there has been a dramatic increase in exploration expenditure in the Territory, including an increase in the proportion of expenditure that is being spent in greenfields areas.  This boom in greenfields exploration compared to other Australian jurisdictions, can be attributed in part to the Territory Government’s efforts to support and encourage greenfields exploration through the Government’s Bringing Forward Discovery initiative.

The $25.8 million Bringing Forward Discovery program helps explorers get ahead by:

  • providing new geoscience data and information to open up new areas for exploration and lower exploration risk;
  • providing funding for greenfields drilling and geophysics to stimulate new discoveries; and
  • helping companies source additional funds for exploration and development, particularly from overseas.

Geophysics and Drilling Collaborations Program are part of the Bringing Forward Discovery initiative. Under this program explorers can apply for 50 per cent up to $100,000 of the cost of exploration drilling or geophysics projects in greenfields areas. 

The decision to include regional geophysical surveys in the collaborations program has delivered considerable success, with co-funded geophysical surveys being used to successfully target mineralisation in undercover areas. A recent example of this success is Thundelarra Exploration’s Afghan Swan uranium discovery in the Ngalia Basin.

It is initiatives like these that have fuelled the increase of exploration and mining activity across the Northern Territory. For the first time ever, mineral exploration expenditure in the region exceeded $200 million, rising 37 per cent from the previous year to $228.4 million. It is this type of growth that is making the Northern Territory a great place to invest and do business.

There are already a range of world-class mining projects operating in the region. This includes Ranger (one of the world’s largest uranium mines), GEMCO (Australia’s largest manganese mine), McArthur River (Australia’s third-largest zinc producer), Pacific Aluminium (one of Australia’s largest bauxite and alumina producers) and Callie (one of Australia’s largest goldmines). These and other mining projects have injected billions of dollars into the local economy. This is expected to increase in the coming years with a host of new projects on the horizon, including the expansion of the McArthur River mine, the establishment of a new titanium and vanadium industry and the re-establishment of a tungsten and molybdenum industry.

Mining is the engine room of the Territory economy and contributes to investments in infrastructure, sustainability, tourism and employment. The resource-rich Territory is ideally placed to capture mining investment and the Territory Government has a strategy in place to make it happen.


Chief Minister - Hon Paul Henderson MLA

Paul Henderson MLA was appointed as Labor’s second Chief Minister on 26 November 2007 and led Labor to a third election victory in 2008.

Chief Minister Henderson is also Minister for Police Fire and Emergency Services, Major Projects and Economic Development, Multicultural Affairs and Defence Liaison.

In a 1999 by-election, Mr Henderson was elected as the Member for Wanguri, in Darwin’s northern suburbs, and has held the seat in three further Northern Territory elections in 2001, 2005 and 2008.

In 2001, Mr Henderson was appointed a Minister in the Northern Territory’s first Labor Government, following the party’s historic election win.

Since coming to office, Mr Henderson has drivena number of major projects and reforms implemented by Government including: 

  • a comprehensive review and four-year reform program in the Northern Territory Police Force, including its largest ever resource boost;
  • significant reforms to Government procurement practices to support small business in the Northern Territory, including an emphasis on ‘value for money’ in awarding tenders and the establishment of an independent Procurement Council;
  • supporting measures for Australian Defence Force families and integration of the Defence presence in the North with the Northern Territory community;
  • introducing Middle Years teaching as part of the first significant overhaul of the Northern Territory’s secondary education system;
  • establishing Local Industry Participation Plans requiring developers of major projects such as Darwin’s LNG Plant to use local companies;
  • working to establish a world class marine service and supply base for offshore oil and gas exploration and production facilities; and
  • securing the $34 billion Ichthys project, a joint venture between INPEX and Total.

Paul Henderson was born in 1962, in France, where his father was stationed with NATO.  Paul was later raised in the United Kingdom and after completing school he gained qualifications in marine engineering and began working as a marine fitter in a Southampton shipyard.

In 1983, after working as a fitter at EZ Mines in Tasmania for a year, Paul was lured to the Northern Territory by its great climate and job opportunities.

Paul worked as a fitter in the shipping and mining industries before taking up a new career as an IT operator.  Paul moved from a trainee in 1985 to Computer Support Manager at the Northern Territory’s Health Department, from 1996 to 1998.

Since 1987, Paul has been active in the AustralianLabor Party Northern Territory, including serving as the Vice President from 1997 to 1999.

In 1989, Paul married his wife Stacey, an IT Project Manager, and they have three children.

Paul is an avid supporter of the St Kilda AFL Club and Northern Territory Thunder, and is Patron of the Darwin Golf Club, Casuarina Junior Soccer Club, the Palmerston RSL, Northern Territory Hakka Society and the Northern Territory Chinese Timorese Association.  Paul is also Vice Patron of the St Mary’s Football Club and Surf Life Saving Northern Territory.



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