The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed a $1.08 billion spending spree on mineral exploration during the September 2022 quarter. The record number scrapes past the previous high of $1.06 billion set during the June 2012 quarter.
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Warren Pearce predicts a consistent increase in the near future.
“The actual takeaway from this boom and last boom is that it’s much broader across commodities,” Pearce said.
“Last time around, it was a few commodities driving the majority of the spend. This time around, we’ve got exploration happening across a much wider range of minerals.”
The search for new mineral fields via greenfields exploration projects was up 9.7 per cent, now sitting at $344 million for the September quarter.
As heads turn for the rise of critical minerals, gold remains the most sought-after commodity.
“Of every exploration dollar, about 35 cents was going towards gold, and 26 of those cents, so about two-thirds, was being spent in Western Australia,” Pearce said. “In truth, I don’t see that changing much – probably over the next couple of quarters, we might see a little bit of a drop away.”
Julimar State Forest’s rare nickel and platinum deposits north of Perth have been a highly lucrative prospect. Discovered by Chalice Mining in March 2020, the critical mineral reserves saw Chalice Mining stock rocket from $0.15 a share in January 2020 to $9.86 a share in November 2021.
Chalice Mining chairman Derek La Ferla spoke at the company’s annual general meeting last month, describing the achievement of mining 136,200m at Julimar over the last financial year.
“(Julimar is) one of the largest nickel sulphide discoveries worldwide in over 20 years and the largest PGE (platinum group elements) discovery in Australian history,” La Ferla said.
“Our exploration team hasn’t really paused in the last two-and-a-half years since the discovery, and yet there is still significant potential to grow the current resource base and identify further deposits over more than 30km of largely untested strike length.”
Ten drill rigs were operational earlier this year at the Hemi gold deposit in WA’s Pilbara region. Recent estimates suggest Hemi holds 8.5 million ounces of gold, ranking highly against other Australian gold operations.
Astral Resources, owners of the Feysville gold project, resumed diamond drilling on November 25. The nine-hole program is set to explore 1500m of ground before the year’s end.
Astral Resources managing director Marc Ducler explained the motivation behind the project.
“When the team started to focus on Feysville, our geologists were drawn to the ultramafic unit in the hanging wall, which had only been intersected twice, but intersected visible gold on both occasions,” Ducler said.
“Success at Feysville will further enhance this strategy, opening up an important second growth avenue for the company just south of Kalgoorlie and potentially increasing our resource base with the addition of high-quality ounces that could feed in as future satellite ore source.”