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A Massive Flying Magnet Is Detecting Mines And Groundwater

A metal detector attached to a helicopter is being flown over large parts of NSW to help farmers discover water and mineral sources.

The airborne electromagnetic survey over the state's drought-stricken central west region will measure the natural electrical properties of soils and rocks up to 400 metres below the surface.

"We hope this cutting-edge technology will help our farmers find groundwater and our mining industry find new deposits of copper, gold, and zinc," Deputy Premier John Barilaro said in a statement on Monday.

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Set to cover an area about one-and-a-half times the size of metropolitan Sydney, the device will act much like a larger version of the metal detectors used on a beach, the state's premier geoscience agency says.

"It's highly technical, high-resolution data, but the electromagnetic fields generated are similar in amplitude to power lines so won't cause any harm to people or livestock," Geological Survey of NSW director John Greenfield said.

The survey helicopter will fly until November, tracing unpopulated areas from Rankin Springs to Louth.