A CSIRO research report has found that extending the life of existing iron ore mines in Australia and optimising marginal deposits would contribute an additional $56 billion to the national budget.


The findings, published in the June 2011 issue of CSIRO's Process magazine, reported that a team of CSIRO scientists was tasked with researching how to add years to the commercial lifespans of known ore resources and converting once uneconomic deposits into viable mines.


Theme leader, Dr Ralph Holmes, says CSIRO is conducting multiple lines of research into all facets of the industry to produce benefits across the whole value chain.


"Some of our research is what you might call 'blue sky'," Dr Holmes says.


"The reward, however, for one of Australia’s most important industries could be substantial.


"What we are doing is aimed at extending the life of existing mines and helping bring in new deposits that are marginal today."


Much of Australia's really high-grade ore has already been mined, resulting in the need to add value to deposits that were previously considered lower grade, uneconomical deposits because of geographical location or size of the deposits.


"We need to add value to the vast amounts of lower grade material to help Australia grow its market share and be more competitive against some of the new, high-grade overseas projects," Dr Holmes said.