Gas from central Australia could be used as part of a deal to keep the Gove alumina refinery in the Top End open.

Mining company Santos has confirmed it plans to expand its gas operation at the Mereenie fields, about 300 kilometres west of Alice Springs.

The company says it is in negotiations about supplying the gas as part of a deal that would secure the future of Rio Tinto's alumina refinery at Gove.

Negotiations to finalise the deal are still ongoing.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Terry Mills says Santos is planning to boost its exploration in central Australia to help address the NT's gas needs.

"Santos want to be a part of this but they need to continue their exploration so they can have a greater share of it," he said.

"So I welcome that sort of exploration.

"I'm really pleased that Santos have made a significant investment to increase their exploration."

Mr Mills is pushing for the creation of a gas network across the country to encourage more mining companies to supply gas to the domestic market.

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