A new laboratory to support Earth sciences

Geoscience Australia is ready to support the next generation of developments in Earth sciences, after its new state-of-the-art laboratory was officially opened last week by Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Madeleine King.

Geoscience Australia CEO James Johnson said the facility in Simonston, ACT, marks the start of an exciting new era for the country’s National Geosciences Agency.

He said: “For more than two decades, our people and their expertise have helped lay the foundation for a better understanding of Australia’s geology – knowledge that benefits all Australians.”

They analyzed tens of thousands of geochemistry samples from across Australia and set the standards that other laboratories around the world followed.

“The new state-of-the-art laboratory will set higher standards – supporting our mission to provide governments, communities and industry with the competitive advances in geoscience data and information needed to move to net zero.”

Geoscience Australia’s Director of Laboratories, Dr Keith Sircombe, said the new laboratory represented a rare opportunity to review and revamp methods and workflows from the ground up.

Laboratory safety requirements and building codes have evolved a lot since earlier laboratories were designed and built in the 1990s. He explained that the new laboratory is more flexible and will develop with new equipment and methods.

“The new lab space meets modern safety requirements with additions such as purpose-built acid digestion and biosecurity rooms, which will provide more flexibility and support for government advice across other portfolios – demonstrating the real cross-government impact of Geoscience Australia’s work overall.

“We replaced outdated auxiliary equipment to improve efficiency and space and through this process even identified some equipment that potentially predated the establishment of the Bureau of Mineral Resources – Australia’s predecessor geoscience organization – in 1946.”

Secretary King operates a portable laser-induced fracture spectroscopy device, which was used to analyze a spodumene sample from WA.

In addition to the new laboratory, Geoscience Australia will also set up a mobile laboratory under its $225 million Future Exploration Program to support mineral, energy and groundwater research.

“This mobile lab will host exciting new equipment, with portable analytical instruments that use state-of-the-art electronics created by NASA’s Mars rovers,” Sercombe said.

All data analyzed by Geoscience Laboratories Australia is publicly available through Internet portals such as Exploring for the Future Data Discovery Portal.

King said he was inspired to see where the science underpinning Australia’s future began.

“This new state-of-the-art laboratory will ensure that decisions made by government, industry and society regarding the sustainable development of Australia’s resources, including supporting our transition to a low-emissions future, are underpinned by high-quality Earth science,” she said.

“Global demand for resources such as critical minerals needed for electric vehicles and battery technologies is increasing as the world moves to decarbonise, and Australia has remarkable potential to meet this demand.”

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