Quarterly statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have shown that nation-wide spending on mineral exploration is still on the rise and reached a record high in the September quarter of 2023. 

Commenting on the statistics, the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) said that Australian mineral exploration expenditure increased by 6.15 per cent ($67 million) to $1.157 billion quarter on quarter. Expenditure on greenfield exploration to discover new deposits increased by 11.56 per cent ($38.1 million) to $367.6 million, while brownfield exploration rose 3.79 per cent ($28.8 million) to $789.4 million.

AMEC CEO, Warren Pearce, said that following June’s record quarter, a new September record demonstrates a 5.25 per cent ($57.7 million) year-on-year growth.

“This shows the sustained, concerted efforts to discover Australian minerals, as well as reflecting rising costs within the exploration sector,” Mr Pearce said.

The largest increase was experienced in the Northern Territory, with a 44 per cent increase in expenditure to $74.4 million – its highest expenditure quarter on record. Western Australia also recorded a high, with a seven per cent increase to $709.8 million.

Queensland recorded an eight per cent increase to $161.1 million, and South Australia’s expenditure increased four per cent to 76.7 million. Expenditure fell in Victoria by 24 per cent, Tasmania by seven per cent, and New South Wales by six per cent.

“Gold recorded the largest increase, up $23.8m quarter on quarter to $334.3m, its highest national investment since the December 2022 quarter,” Mr Pearce said.

“Nationally, copper ($182.7 million), selected base metal ($298.9 million), and ‘other’ ($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 per cent increase in the ‘other’ category, including critical minerals. The Northern Territory also grew strongly in the ‘other’ category, with a $15.2 million increase, while Western Australia recorded a 14 per cent increase in gold exploration. South Australia recorded a 290 per cent increase in copper exploration year-on-year.

AMEC noted that while expenditure is up, metres drilled has fallen. Quarter on quarter there was a 4.13 per cent (121.3km) decrease in metres drilled for total deposits to 2,813.4km. Metres drilled for greenfield exploration in the quarter rose by 0.39 per cent, but brownfield metres drilled decreased by 5.88 per cent.

“The substantial increases to discover critical and base metals, highlights the importance of government co-funded investment programs 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.” 

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