Mining companies can "move in and begin drilling" in a large area of South Australia previously off limits to most exploration, the State's Premier Jay Weatherill says.
The Federal Government has put access arrangements in place for the Woomera Prohibited Area in SA's north, a zone the size of England thought to hold more than $35 billion in mineral wealth.
The South Australian Government has welcomed the move and says the area is set to become one of Australia's most significant resource provinces.
"Mining companies have been waiting for the opportunity to access this area for years and this deed of agreement will finally allow them to move their drills in and begin searching for the minerals we know are there," Mr Weatherill said today.
The State Government says the WPA and the surrounding area are thought to contain nearly 80 per cent of the nation's uranium and more than 60 per cent of Australia's copper resources as well as significant deposits of iron ore, gold and other minerals.
Mineral Resources Development Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the mineral wealth in the area had the potential to dwarf the major copper and uranium deposit at Olympic Dam and lead to world-class discoveries.
"We all know how prospective Olympic Dam is, well if that is the elephant then we will find the herd in the WPA," he said.