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Want to find out more about the Gawler Craton Airborne Survey? Read our frequently asked questions.

The Gawler Craton is the name of the oldest and largest geological province in South Australia, occupying over 40% of the state’s total area. It is characterised by ancient geology dating back approximately 3,000 Million years and hosts the world class Olympic Dam copper deposit. Refer to our map for an indication of the Gawler Craton Airborne Survey boundaries.

An airborne survey captures high resolution geophysical and topographic mapping data. The survey is performed by low-flying aircraft, using sensors that will acquire magnetic intensity, radiometric and elevation data that will help us to better understand the geology, and inform stakeholders in how best to manage our natural resources in South Australia. This mapping data will be freely available online via the Department’s South Australian Resource Information Gateway (SARIG) application.

The Gawler Craton Airborne Survey aircraft will have instruments capturing Magnetic intensity, Radiometrics and Ground Elevation. You can learn more about these and other geoscientific data by reading our geophysical data page.

Data captured by the survey reveals the composition of rocks at and beneath the earth’s surface. After being made freely available to the public via SARIG, the information will provide a greater understanding of the geoscience framework, enabling land management, resource potential and water research activities. Together, these will support a balanced approach to future economic, environmental and community programs in South Australia.

The survey is being managed by Geoscience Australia, which is Australia’s national geoscience agency. The Survey is funded by the South Australian Government through the flagship PACE Copper initiative under the Next Generation Copper Discovery Program. Geoscience Australia will be contracting several surveying companies to collect data over survey regions across the Gawler Craton.

The survey area has been divided into blocks and the progress of all aircraft we will be tracked as the blocks are being flown. Using the map on this web site you will have access to the current status of all aircraft and will be able to find out where the aircraft are or when they are expected to be in your area.

If a survey has not yet commenced on your block, you can subscribe to email updates to receive an alert for when the survey is scheduled to begin. If the survey has already begun on your block, you can view the current flight plan on our map to see the proximity of the flight plan to your location. The map provides information about the planned start date of the survey in each block.

As the survey has been divided into blocks and a number of different survey contractors will be performing surveys over the broader region, there will not be a single aircraft used. However, the type of aircraft will be one of several models of fixed wing Cessna, with a single propeller engine. More information on the aircraft being used in each block will be available closer to the start of each survey via our map or airborne survey contacts.

The survey aircraft has a range of instruments on board. The instruments used for the Gawler Craton Airborne Survey include:

  • A laser altimeter for measuring altitude and computing the elevation at the earth’s surface. The laser altimeter system operates at a frequency that is safe to humans and animals.
  • A satellite navigation system.
  • A magnetometer for measuring variations in the magnetic field of the earth resulting from the magnetic property of rocks beneath the aircraft. The magnetometer is a passive instrument and does not emit a signal.
  • A gamma ray detector for measuring the natural radioactivity of soil and rocks in the upper 30 centimetres of the earth’s surface. The gamma ray detector is a passive instrument and does not emit a signal.

No, the aircraft will not be capturing any information or data, other than geophysical and elevation data.

If you have spotted a low flying aircraft over your property, try to take note of the call-sign painted on the underside of the aircraft wing and on the side of the aircraft and compare it with the list on the contractor directory on this webpage. If the call sign matches, the aircraft you saw is conducting part of the Gawler Craton Airborne Survey over your property. If you wish to know more about the survey please call 1800 091 964.

Survey aircraft carry and monitor local aviation VHF and UHF radio channels while flying, but may not have their UHF radio set to the frequency you are transmitting on. The survey aircraft have their radios tuned to local aviation frequencies to listen for other aircraft movements in the vicinity of where they are operating. Due to the nature of airborne geophysical surveying, communication from the aircraft via aircraft radio channels is more common when conducting turns at the start and end of a survey traverse.

An alternative to communicating with the aircraft is to contact the survey contractor, using the contractor directory on this webpage.

The results of the survey will not directly detect the presence of copper, but will greatly improve our understanding of the physical properties of the geology in the region (e.g. how magnetic different rock units are at depth, below the surface).

To determine the location of areas with enriched copper, mineral exploration companies will need to independently assess all available data, be granted an Exploration Licence by the Government and perform chemical analyses on samples obtained from an area of interest. Exploration companies work within legislative requirements, which include liaison with landowners and community stakeholders.

Further information on landowner rights when working with mineral exploration companies can be found via our land access community information webpages.

If the map does not look right on your computer, try refreshing the page while holding down the Ctrl key on your computer keyboard. This will reload the page, ignoring anything “cached” on your computer and has been found to solve most of the map display issues we have encountered so far.

Following completion of a survey block, the survey contractor needs time to process the data they have acquired into a final set of products. For survey blocks of this size, the time required is around ten weeks per block. Subsequent to the contractor's data processing, federal and state government agencies will perform a final quality check and prepare the data for release. This will add four to six weeks to the final release date. Data can then be downloaded from both the Geoscience Australia and SARIG data portals. Subscribing to the email updates will ensure you are notified of data releases and other milestone events.