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Gold has experienced the most investment in exploration of any commodity in Australia during the September quarter.

Exploration for gold increased by 17 per cent to $356 million compared with the 6 per cent quarter-on-quarter increase across all minerals (to $702 million), according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

However, the largest increase in exploration expenditure was on silver, lead and zinc (up 56 per cent to $13 million), followed by nickel and cobalt (up 17 per cent to $49 million).

Total mineral expenditure for the September quarter rose by 3 per cent on the prior corresponding period despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Metres drilled for greenfields exploration jumped 23 per cent, while brownfields exploration climbed 17 per cent.

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) chief executive Warren Pearce said the continued increase in greenfield mineral exploration expenditure came off the back of significant capital raising in the June quarter with $1.34 billion raised across the exploration sector.

“The ability of Australian mineral exploration and mining companies to continue operating where possible, in adherence with COVID-19 restrictions, has driven interest in mineral exploration following a number of recent promising discoveries in multiple jurisdictions,” he said.

“Western Australia’s minerals sector continues to lead the nation’s emergence from COVID-19 constraints. Total expenditure grew by $70.9 million to $483.3 million.

“For context, the previous year (September 2019) saw a $44.6 million growth quarter on quarter.”

While the Northern Territory, Queensland and Tasmania saw an increase in mineral exploration expenditure, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia – jurisdictions that were more affected by the pandemic – experienced a decline.