A newly refurbished geological laboratory in East Timor is expected to boost the fledgling country's research capacity and help geologists better understand its complex geological setting.
A joint project involving The University of Western Australia, East Timor's National Petroleum Authority (ANP) and State Secretariat for Natural Resources (SERN) and Italian-based international oil and gas company Eni, the renovated building was opened during a special ceremony in the East Timorese capital of Dili.
Project manager John Williamson, an Honorary Fellow in UWA's School of Earth and Environment, was responsible for designing and implementing the project, with UWA Professors Myra Keep and David Haig.
Professor Keep said the University had been asked to submit a proposal to turn the existing lab into a hi-tech facility for rock preparation and petrology.
"The new lab boasts some of the latest technologies in preparing geological materials and production of petrographic thin sections," she said.
"It has the capacity to operate as a one-stop shop for housing of geological sample collections, and their preparation on site for further analyses.
"The lab can be used for storing equipment and materials for processing paleontological samples as well as curating and storing rock specimens collected during mapping and exploration trips."
UWA has also helped train SERN technicians to operate the new facility and equipment. Professor Keep said geological sample processing was highly skilled and required specialist training and constant practice.
Eni Timor Leste Country Representative Tony Heynen said the refurbishment was the result of common interests between Eni Timor Leste, SERN and ANP to build capacity in the petroleum sector.
Mr Heynen said Eni held four production sharing contracts in the Timor-Leste Exclusion Area and was committed to providing support for petroleum infrastructure projects in the region.
"Eni committed over US$1.1 million to this project and we thank SERN and ANP for entrusting us with this contribution and UWA for fully delivering the project in time and within budget," he said.
East Timorese company RMS Constructions carried out the refurbishment, with more than two-thirds of the workforce employed locally and sourcing 60 per cent of goods from within East Timor.