Mines Minister George Cash today strongly refuted any suggestion that valuable gold fingerprinting technology was to be sold to overseas interests.
He was responding to a number of reports which stated that the technology was about to be sold out of Western Australia.
The technology, developed by two Department of Minerals and Energy scientists, is a sophisticated analytical process which gives every mine a unique `fingerprint'.
The technique had been successfully used in WA courts in connection with gold theft offences and received world-wide recognition in the process.
"Given the value of this sort of technology to the State there is absolutely no intention of selling it either offshore or within Australia," Mr Cash said.
"On Western Australian goldfields alone, the Gold Stealing Detection Unit estimates more than one per cent of the State's gold production is stolen each year. This amounts to a staggering $20 million by today's prices.
"Far from selling the technology, the DME chemistry centre is actively seeking work from overseas clients in order to fund further development of the techniques on a user pays basis.
"Several international assignments have already been successfully undertaken."
Mr Cash said this activity was in line with the commercialisation of the department's chemistry centre as part of the Coalition Government's public sector reform policies.
"I wish to make it clear the chemistry centre was not corporatised - it is not a separate entity to the department, it remains an integral part of the DME," he said.
"However, aspects of the centre's work can be placed on a commercial footing and this is what has been done.
"The money paid to the centre by customers using the technology will fund further research and development of techniques.
"Until now the department's major customers have mainly been other Government agencies."
Mr Cash said the inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer with laser ablation (ICPMS) had been purchased primarily through Government funding.
Funding to develop the fingerprinting technique had also been funded via Government channels.
Scientists Dr John Watling and Dr Hugh Herbert were at the leading edge of this type of work.
"With its extensive data base of gold from around Australia and overseas there are opportunities for the technology to be accessed on a broader base than it has to date," Mr Cash said.
"Government agencies including the WA Police Department have received funding to access the fingerprinting method if required."
Mr Cash said it was the development of this type of technology which continued to maintain WA's position at the forefront of the world mining industry.
"With this in mind, the Government will certainly have no part in the sale of this sort of technology," he said.
"This would place WA in the ridiculous position of having to pay another country or another State to utilise techniques developed here through one of its own departments."
Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 9211
Carole O'Dwyer, DME public affairs 222 3333