PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The latest edition of Australia’s 'Identified Mineral Resources' (AIMR) report has reaffirmed Australia position as one of the world’s top producers of key critical minerals.
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt at the end of last week said that Geoscience Australia’s annual stock-take has tracked the country’s mineral resources since 1975.
“The latest industry report confirmed Australia entered the Covid-19 economic crisis in a strong position thanks to its mineral resources.
“At the end of 2019, Australia remained a global leader in mineral exploration and production, and one of the world’s most desirable locations for investing in the mineral sector.
“In 2019 our mineral exports were valued at A$234-billion, accounting for 47% of all Australia’s exported goods and services. Investment in mineral exploration increased by 21%, compared to the previous year, reaching A$2.6-billion.
“Gold accounted for 40% of exploration expenditure, with a strong gold price creating a modern gold rush,” Pitt said.
Australian gold accounts for one-fifth of the current global resource, with the country producing a record 326 t in 2019.
Pitt said Australia remained the world’s top producer of iron-ore with 36% of global production and we also produced 56% of the world’s lithium, which is becoming increasingly important for battery storage technologies.
“Advancements in technology are driving the world’s appetite for critical minerals. Because of their use in cutting-edge, low-carbon defence, medical and other applications, demand for commodities like lithium, cobalt and graphite is projected to rise significantly over coming decades,” the Minister said.
“With more than 300 operating mines producing 26 major and minor mineral commodities, our strength in this sector has enabled our economy to remain resilient throughout the global pandemic and recession.
“The government’s A$225-million Exploring for the Future programme, led by Geoscience Australia, is opening up new exploration opportunities across the nation, supporting new mineral discovery that is essential for Australia’s future economic prosperity.
“Already we’ve seen significant new investment in resource exploration across Northern Australia because of this programme, with over 120 000 km2 of greenfield exploration tenements in the region between Mount Isa in Queensland and Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory under application.”
The AIMR noted that some A$2.64-billion was spent on exploration in Australia during 2019, with gold accounting for 40% of this exploration spend, with total exploration expenditure increasing by 21% on the 2018 figures.
The report stated that greenfield exploration expenditure and drilling was up 32% from A$800-million in 2018 to over A$1-billion in 2019 and metres drilled up 3% from 3.5-million in 2018 to 3.7-million. Likewise, 2019 expenditure and drilling around brownfield deposits was up 15% to $1.5-billion on 2018 and metres up 7% to 6.6-million compared with 6.2-million in 2018.
Copper had the biggest expenditure increase of 60% from A$261-million in 2018 to A$415-million in 2019, slightly higher than the previous high of A$414-million in 2012. Copper was the second most explored for commodity in 2019, ahead of iron-ore which was up 16.2% from A$301-million in 2018 to A$350-million.