Western Australia is to be the headquarters for two new major national research programs – into dryland salinity and prospecting for deeply buried ore deposits.
Commerce and Trade Minister Hendy Cowan congratulated WA researchers who succeeded in winning Commonwealth funds to establish the two new Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) in partnership with collaborators around Australia.
The grants were announced by the Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin, today.
The Commonwealth is providing $42.2 million in funding over the next seven years. This will be more than matched by funds and in-kind contributions from industry and other research participants.
The State Government, through the Department of Commerce and Trade’s Centres of Excellence program, committed up to $650,000 for each proposed WA CRC to improve the likelihood of success in the latest funding round and amplify their benefit to the State.
CRCs are designed to encourage collaborative research between industry, educational institutions and government, leading to the development of leading-edge solutions to significant national problems and commercial opportunities.
Mr Cowan said the WA component of the CRC for Plant-based Management of Dryland Salinity’s research program would be undertaken by Agriculture WA, the University of Western Australia and the Department of Conservation and Land Management.
“Salinity is Australia’s most serious environmental issue. At the moment, the most serious impact is on rural communities but there is potential for it to impact on major population centres through, for example, the quality of the water supply,” Mr Cowan said.
The focus of the research will be on the management of dryland salinity through the use of plant-based farming systems.
“Under the directorship of Professor Philip Cocks of UWA, the centre will seek to develop farming system that will, as far as possible, replicate natural ecosystems.
“They’ll be looking at what can be achieved with suitable perennial plants, developing farming systems that reduce groundwater recharge and rehabilitating salt-affected land and how it can be used.
“Through the cooperative research program there will be input from other researchers across Australia. Western Australia will be charged with ensuring that there is a transfer of high-level information among all researchers.”
The Cooperative Research Centre for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration will be led by Dr Ray Smith of the CSIRO Division of Exploration and Mining at Floreat.
Mr Cowan said the centre would use advanced exploration technologies to discover new deposits at depth and employ multi-disciplinary research methods to bring these into production in an environmentally sound way.
“It is appropriate that the CSIRO in Western Australia won this centre as it will complement the work of the CRC for Landscape Evolution and Mineral Exploration which is also WA-based. This has led to greater understanding of the unique chemical and geological structure of the rocks which overlay this State’s mineral deposits,” he said.
Media contact: Peter Jackson 9222-9595