Australia’s mineral exploration spending soars to new heights

4th December 2023

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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Mineral exploration spending in Australia continues to be on an upward trajectory, with companies investing more than A$1-billion in the search for riches in minerals and petroleum in the September quarter.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, released on Monday, show that mineral exploration expenditure had reached a record high in the three months ended September, beating the record achieved in the June quarter.

“This shows the sustained, concerted efforts to discover Australian minerals, as well as reflecting rising costs with the exploration sector,” said Association of Mining and Exploration Companies CEO Warren Pearce.

Using original terms, mineral exploration expenditure increased by 6.15% (A$67-million) to A$1.16-billion quarter-on-quarter. However, there was a decrease in metres drilled during the period.

Expenditure on greenfield exploration to discover new deposits increased by 11.56% (A$38.1-million) to A$367.6-million, while brownfield exploration rose 3.79% (A$28.8-million) to A$789.4-million.

The biggest increase was experienced in the Northern Territory, with a 44% increase in expenditure this quarter to A$74.4-million, its highest expenditure quarter on record. Western Australia also recorded a high, with a 7% increase to A$709.8-million.

Queensland recorded an 8% increase to A$161.1-million, and South Australia’s expenditure increased 4% to A$76.7-million. Expenditure fell in Victoria this quarter by 24%, Tasmania by 7%, and New South Wales by 6%.

“Gold recorded the largest increase, up A$23.8-million quarter-on-quarter to $334.3-million, its highest national investment since the December 2022 quarter.”

Pearce noted that, nationally, copper (A$182.7-million), selected base metals (A$298.9-million), and ‘other’ (A$205.3-million), including critical minerals commodities, recorded their highest ever expenditure. There was also notable quarter-on-quarter growth in expenditure to discover diamond, uranium, silver, lead and zinc deposits.

Queensland recorded an 88% increase in the ‘other’ category, including critical minerals. The Northern Territory also growing strongly in the 'other' category, with a A$15.2-million increase, while Western Australia recorded a 14% increase in gold exploration. South Australia recorded a 290% increase in copper exploration year-on-year.

However, while expenditure is up, metres drilled have fallen.

Quarter-on-quarter there was a 4.13% (121.3 km) decrease in metres drilled for total deposits to 2 813.4 km. Metres drilled for greenfield exploration this quarter rose by 0.39%, but brownfield metres drilled decreased by 5.88%.

“The substantial increases to discover critical and base metals, highlights the importance of government co-funded investment programmes that have been released during the reporting period, and the diversity of investor demands.”

“Mineral exploration remains extremely strong, with a record September quarter on the back of a record June quarter,” said Pearce.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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