Fifty years’ worth of Queensland exploration data has become publicly available. We unearth the implications for mining firms
A snapshot of the changes
Following regulatory changes by the Queensland Department of Resources in 2020, in a bid to drive future investment in the resources sector, decades of Queensland’s previously confidential exploration data will now become publicly available to explorers. Included in this new wave of information are 60,000 existing minerals and coal exploration and tenure reports, and almost 20,000 new reports spanning the last 50 years. Effective from 1 October 2020, both sets of reports will become publicly available five years after the date upon which they were due (as opposed to being held confidential for the life of tenure).
What about commercially-sensitive information?
One concern this type of data sharing presents for companies with tenements is the forced disclosure of commercially sensitive data to competitors. Prior to regulatory changes, confidentiality protections in exploration reports provided a safeguard to counteract the commercial risks companies must take during exploration. Among these risks is the investment of capital costs into exploration efforts without guarantee of commensurate return. Disclosure of exploration report data is likely to amplify this risk because competitors with existing tenements may now use commercially beneficial data obtained during another company’s explorative activities without incurring the associated expenses or risk. Competitors with adjoining or adjacent tenements with similar geographical data are likely to pose the greatest risk.
We recommend companies carefully consider the information they disclose during exploration. To the extent commercially sensitive data is not required to be included in exploration reports, companies should omit this information. It will also be critical to take full commercial advantage of exploration data obtained prior to the expiration of the confidentiality period in order to diminish (or neutralise) the benefits this information may present to competitors.
Exploration tech companies to come out on top
For other companies, the regulatory changes present a unique opportunity to establish a greater presence in the mining sector, as they represent greater opportunity for utilisation of innovation, automation and big data to drive the sector’s next era of positive growth. In this respect, exploration technology companies who are able to capitalise on this positive movement by aggregating, synthetising and analysing exploration report data may be able to obtain greater commercial advantage. The dissemination of this information is likely to also benefit junior companies who do not otherwise possess the capital or risk profile to undertake direct exploration work.
Exploration technology companies should consider how companies in the sector might best receive this information in order to implement a dissemination practice that is accessible, user-friendly and encourages further collaboration between the sector and big data.
The regulatory changes present a range of opportunities and challenges for the mining sector. While mine operators should be mindful of the type of data now publicly available to their competitors, the development signifies a tangible opportunity for exploration and technology companies.
Our market-leading mining team can support you across the full mine lifecycle. If you’re impacted by the changes outlined in this article or want to learn more about how you can stay ahead of opportunities in the sector, reach out to one of our experts today.
The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only and may not be current as at the date of accessing this publication. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.
© Herbert Smith Freehills 2021