JOHANNESBURG (miningwekly.com) – Thirty of the company's 125 drilling rigs were idle as a result of reductions in exploration expenditure, Geosearch COO Buster Shipster said on Wednesday.
Shipster told Mining Weekly Online that the credit-crunch-induced exploration cutbacks had begun to bite.
"We've probably had 30 rigs stopped," he said, but estimated that a good 85% of Geosearch's South African exploration drilling work remained intact at this stage.
Of the still- high 85% continuance, he added: "I don't think that it will necessarily continue at that level next year. Our feeling is that, certainly for the next six months, it's going to be quite a challenge," Shipster said.
The company had already been impacted by Canadian-based Banro gold exploration company, active in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, holding back on exploration drilling completely.
On when things could get back to normal, Shipster said: "Generally March seems to be the magical month when things may begin improving again."
One large company, which had put offshore exploration drilling work on hold, was expecting to resume drilling in March/April 2009.
Geosearch would use the breathing space to retrain its employees, bring its 30 idle rigs back up to speed, look to undertaking more deeper drilling assignments, and undertake coal work for parent company Sentula.
Geosearch was, at this stage, not retrenching any of its 1 000 employees, but was not replacing those leaving through natural attrition.
Lonmin CEO Ian Farmer told Mining Weekly Online earlier that the LSE- and JSE-listed platinum company had cut its 2009 exploration budget to $11-million from $29-million last year.
The $1l-million would be on exploration in Tanzania, Gabon and Canada.
"That's the minimum we can get away with to make sure that we maintain our position in those assets," Farmer added
Mining Weekly Online was told unofficially that platinum major Anglo Platinum appeared to be on the verge of reducing its 2009 exploration budget.
Geosearch was said to be Africa's largest exploration drilling company, owning 125 exploration drilling rigs and performing services for companies diversified across platinum, gold, coal, copper, cobalt, nickel and uranium.