PERTH (miningweekly.com) – New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown that mineral exploration expenditure continued to grow in the December quarter.
“Total Australian mineral exploration expenditure grew in every quarter in 2020, illustrating the strength of Australia’s mineral exploration industry, and industry’s commitment to finding new mines to create jobs, royalties and benefits for the local community,” said Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (Amec) CEO Warren Pearce.
“Nationally mineral exploration has had four straight quarters of growth in 2020 despite Covid-19.”
Mineral exploration expenditure grew 1.2%, or A$9.1-million, in the December quarter 2020 compared with the previous September quarter, to A$754-million.
Greenfield expenditure fell 4.5%, or A$11.5-million, to A$246-million and brownfield expenditure rose 4.2%, or A$20.6-million, to A$508-million. Total exploration expenditure was almost identical to December 2019 quarter, with an increase of A$1-million.
Metres drilled for greenfield exploration slipped by 2.24% while brownfield grew by 4.2%. The largest increase of minerals sought came from expenditure on selected base metals up 12.5%, or A$17.2-million, to A$155-million, and gold exploration up 3.65%, or A$13-million, to A$369.1-million.
The selected base metals ABS definition includes copper, silver, lead-zinc, nickel and cobalt.
“The fall in greenfield mineral exploration fits the seasonal trend with nearly all December quarters experiencing lower metres drilled due to the realities of the wet season in northern Australia,” said Pearce.
Total expenditure rose in the December 2020 quarter compared with September 2020, in Victoria by 23%, South Australia by 22%, Northern Territory by 16% and New South Wales by 7.8%.
However, in the corresponding period, Western Australia expenditure slid by 0.6%, Queensland by 7.8%, and Tasmania by 3.0%.
The expenditure increases in Victoria and the Northern Territory can be largely attributed to increases in gold exploration, while selected base metals rose in South Australia and New South Wales. Western Australian mineral exploration remained steady in the December quarter at A$480-million - Western Australia represents 63% of total Australian mineral exploration expenditure activity.
“Australia needs continued investment in mineral exploration to find the mines of the future that will create new jobs and provide ongoing benefits for Australia,” said Pearce.
Petroleum exploration expenditure also increased by 3.1%, or A$6.9-million, during the quarter, to A$228.9-million, with offshore exploration increasing by 25.7%, or A$24.3-million,to A$92.4-million, while onshore exploration fell 11.2%, or A$17.3-million, to A$136.6-million.
Queensland Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the ABS statistics on mineral and petroleum exploration reasserted the positive outlook within Queensland’s resources sector.
“These latest figures show that our resources sector is bouncing back stronger in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Because of all of Queensland’s health response to Covid-19, it means investors are backing our resources sector which has shown how important it is to the state’s economic recovery.
“During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government made a concerted effort to back our explorers through a number of grants and land rent waivers. Our government is backing exploration because we know that more investment in exploration leads to more projects and more jobs for Queenslanders.”