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Mineral exploration expenditure in Australia reached a record high of A$1.08-billion during the September quarter, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown.

Expenditure on mineral exploration in the September quarter was up 2.6%, or some A$27.6-million in original terms, the ABS said.

“Mineral exploration expenditure across Australia increased by 2.6% in the September quarter, quarter-on-quarter, up by A$27.6-million to A$1.08-billion in original terms. The rise was led by Queensland which had a 21% rise quarter-on-quarter and Western Australia expenditure that lifted again by 3%,” Association of Mining and Exploration Companies CEO Warren Pearce said.

“Greenfield exploration rose by 9.7% to A$344-million, while brownfield exploration slipped slightly by 0.4% to A$740-million. The increase in greenfield mineral exploration is crucial to the discovery of new mines that will create new jobs and opportunities.

“During the period, the total metres drilled fell by 1.7% to 3 048.9 km. The distance drilled focussed on brownfield targets fell 5.9% to 2 101.7 km, while greenfield drilling searching for new discoveries rose 9.0% to 947.1 km.

“In original terms in the September quarter 2022, mineral expenditure rose in Queensland by 21%, in the Northern Territory by 21% and Western Australia by 3%, and fell in Tasmania by 23%, fell in Victoria by 16%, in South Australia by 11% and New South Wales by 8%,” said Pearce.

Meanwhile, the search for what the ABS broadly categorise as ‘other minerals’, which includes lithium and critical minerals, was up 37% nationally to A$140-million.

“Nationally, gold exploration expenditure slipped by 10%, including by 6% in Western Australia. However, gold is still the dominant metal explorers are looking for. It is calculated that 35c in every dollar of national mineral exploration is invested in exploring for gold, and 26 of those cents are in Western Australia,” Pearce said.

“As our industry continues to work through labour shortages, the commitment to mineral exploration is key for the industry. Our ability to remain an investment destination of choice is paramount if we are to discover the mines of the future and deliver long-term, wide-ranging social and economic benefits to Australia.”

“The record mineral exploration expenditure of $1.08-billion in the September 2022 quarter is higher than the A$1.06-billion in June 2012, and reflects the broad, strong market appetite for opportunities in Australia,” said Pearce.