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Australia’s mineral exploration expenditure has risen by 2.5 per cent in the December 2020 quarter, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

This puts total exploration expenditure at $718.4 million, with gold expenditure reaching $369.1 million for the quarter, up from $356.1 million in the previous quarter.

Coal exploration expenditure dipped to its lowest result in over a year, from $73.1 million in the September quarter to $54 million in the following quarter.

Australia’s selected base metals recorded the most significant rise of the quarter, up 12.5 per cent to $155 million.

Western Australia achieved the biggest spend for the quarter at $466.2 million, followed by Queensland ($94 million), New South Wales ($65.2 million) and Victoria ($42.6 million).

Metres drilled rose by 4.1 per cent to 2.84 million metres in the December quarter.

The ABS has flagged that COVID-19 has impacted accurate trend estimations for mineral exploration expenditure and metres drilled, since the trend series was suspended in the March 2020 quarter.

“It may be some time before the underlying trend in exploration expenditure and metres drilled can be accurately estimated,” the ABS stated.

“The trend series will be reinstated when more certainty emerges in the underlying trend.”

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane encouraged the state government to support exploration in Queensland.

“There is no room for complacency,” he said. “The government and industry need to continue to work in partnership to grow exploration and ultimately the production investment pipeline.”