The Australian Academy of Science has suggested that it has made a breakthrough in telescopic discovery and has the scope to develop a new “downward-looking telescope” that would be able to look 300 kilometers beneath the surface of the Earth.
This would make it possible to view any mineral wealth that might lie under Australia. The proposal of developing this telescope is part of the ten-year plan for Australian Geoscience that the National Committee for Earth Sciences announced today.
With a clear move toward renewable energy sources and mobile technologies, there is set to be an increased demand for certain minerals, including copper, cobalt, gold and rare elements. While there is a sufficient supply for now, growing concerns about price rises due to trade tensions between the US and China have encouraged those in the geoscience field to start making plans to source closer to home.
Australia is well-known for its bountiful mining deposits of several rich minerals, and many mining companies have made their home here. With market instabilities causing difficulty in maintaining a steady price as demand continues to rise, the telescope proposal will prove to be a boost to those in the sector.
The National Committee for Earth Science’s Chair, Professor Sue O’Reilly, said that the best way for Australia to meet demand in the future is to ensure that the infrastructure is in place ahead of time so that the economy’s progress does not become stunted.
“This is where the downward-looking telescope comes in,” she said, adding that it “would transform our minerals sector by making deep Australia visible.” O’Reilly said that the telescope would give Australia “a new understanding of the vertical makeup of the continent and allow us to direct our mineral exploration efforts in the two-thirds of Australia that aren’t currently cost-effective to explore.”
According to O’Reilly, minerals such as cobalt are in especially high demand, given their use in battery-powered technologies. She noted: “By 2030, global demand for cobalt will be 47 times what it was in 2016, so unless we can become self-sufficient in this strategic metal, Australia may be held to ransom with massive price increases and chronic shortages.”
She believes that the best way to address this issue is to “generate new geoscience knowledge” as scientists begin to look deeper into areas that they had already considered mining but chose not to due to lack of information about what they would find.
O’Reilly criticized what she called a lack of education in geoscience in schools, saying that there are “a lack of teachers with qualifications.” She added that the specialization “should be embedded as a core subject within every level of Australian STEM education” and said that financial incentives should be in place to draw people toward geoscience at a higher education level.
The National Committee for Earth Science’s ten-year plan should lay real groundwork so that Australia can become more focused on geoscience and how it benefits more than just the mining sector.
The plan also entails the further development of the nation’s computer science capabilities, with a need to stay on top of the latest simulation and modeling developments so that those working in the sector are operating at the highest level.