Australian exploration trends shifting, impacting search for new deposits - Amec CEO

4th March 2024

By: Creamer Media Reporter


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While Australian mineral exploration expenditure reached a record high in 2023, statistics for the December quarter show that the trends are shifting to a decline in expenditure and metres drilled, with the hardest hit being exploration for new deposits.

This is according to  Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (Amec) CEO Warren Pearce, who was commenting on Monday on the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics report.

The December quarter national drop of 3% showed what the industry had been observing, he stated.

Using original terms, Australian mineral exploration expenditure decreased by 3.1%, to A$1.12-billion quarter-on-quarter.

Expenditure on greenfield exploration to discover new deposits fell by 4.4% to A$353.8-million, while brownfield exploration rose by 2.5% to A$770.3-million.

“It is concerning to see that metres drilled continues to fall, with a 5% decline for the total of new and existing deposits. New deposits alone fell by 13.6%,” said Pearce.

Spending in the nickel and cobalt category recorded the lowest result since March 2022. Nickel and lithium explorers have been hit hard with both experiencing reductions in share price and commodity price.

In contrast, the ‘other’ category reached an all-time high, including mineral sands, uranium and diamonds. Silver, lead and zinc increased by 25.1% to A$34.9-million followed by coal exploration increasing by 5.6% to A$90.9-million, which is almost a decade high.

Despite an overall small decline in mineral exploration expenditure, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia all recorded increases. Queensland recorded a 4.3% increase to A$168.1-million, New South Wales increased 6.9% to A$98.6-million and South Australia increased 3.9% to A$79.7-million.

The largest decrease was experienced in Western Australia, dropping to A$675-million, down $34.8-million, or 4.9%, from the state’s previous September quarter record high of A$709.8-million.

Expenditure also fell in the Northern Territory by A$11.3-million, or 15.2%, to A$63.1-million along with Victoria down A$1.4-million, or 4.4%, to A$30.7-million and Tasmania dropping A$1.8-million, or 1%, to A$8.4-million.

Nationally, expenditure dropped for all commodities except silver, lead and zinc, the ‘other’ category and coal. Expenditure for silver, lead and zinc rose by A$7-million, or 25.1%, to A$34.9-million in the December quarter, its highest national investment since the June quarter 2008. The ‘other’ category was up 5.3% to A$216.1-million and coal was up 5.6% to A$90.9-million.

Commodities that declined in expenditure were: iron-ore down by 13.1% to A$170.6-million, copper down 4.8% to A$173.9-million, nickel/cobalt down 14.4% to A$75.6-million, selected base metals down 4.8% to A$284.5-million, uranium down 14.3% to A$15-million and mineral sands down 10% to A$15.3-million.

“Overall, these results are a clear sign that the mineral and exploration industry is delicately poised. It also further strengthens calls for support from both state and federal government, to ensure the sector rebounds and can provide the platform needed for the ongoing energy transition,” said Pearce.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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