Venture Southland’s role in economic diversification has contributed to the silica resource being explored and the potential of a new silica based industry being established.
While silica is a very common element, thought to be almost 28% of the earth’s crust - high purity silica of a suitable size for refining is not so common. The largest silica resources are in the form of loose quartz gravel and sand, with minor deposits of quartzite (solid silica, also termed ganister, which is formed by fine-grained silica cementing quartz gravel and sand).
Silica deposits are widespread in Southland and have been investigated over several decades as feedstock for various silicon-based industries as well as for roading aggregate and mounding sands.
The silica content of the samples taken in Southland ranged from 98.77% to 99.54% in purity, with 99.37% being the average over all sample areas. This provides evidence to suggest that the Southland quartz gravel and sand deposits are of grade and quality suitable for silicon and ferrosilicon manufacture. The quantity of silica content available in Southland is estimated to be in the order of 1000 million tonnes (Mt). The development of a new industry based upon Southland's silica resources would encourage opportunities to develop high value electronics and solar grade polysilicon which would diversify and increase the value of the Southland economy.
Venture Southland continues to play an important role in the understanding of the silicon resource, its potential uses and the promotion of new development opportunities. The demand for easily accessible deposits of high purity silica is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. Venture Southland aims to facilitate any industry development that would provide significant economic diversification and benefit to the region.