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Business consulting firm Deloitte has released its 16th annual Tracking the trends report for mining, exploring key trends and challenges facing the mining industry in the new year.

Subtitled Navigating global challenges and opportunities in mining and metals, the 2024 edition of the report outlines how mining and metals companies must work to address issues such as supply and labour shortages, environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges, global uncertainty, and emerging technologies such as generative artificial intelligence (AI).

The report recommends mining companies to invest more in grassroots exploration rather than acquisitions of smaller exploration companies.

This follows a year full of significant mergers and acquisitions in 2023, such as BHP acquiring OZ Minerals in April and Newmont acquiring Newcrest in November.

“In mining and metals, the percentage of exploration spend over time compared to the size of markets, like copper, is decreasing,” Deloitte Canada director of consulting Charles Hooper said in the report.

The market size continues to increase, but we’re not seeing equivalent growth in the funding of exploration.

“It takes approximately 15 years for a mine to go from discovery to production. It’s important that companies think about their decline curves today and determine the role exploration can play in their strategy to replenish and/or grow reserves.”

The report’s many contributors suggested that mining companies should build relationships in new jurisdictions, augment exploration teams with technology, and sustain exploration through cycles.

Deloitte Australia mining and metals leader Nicki Ivory said the mining and metals sector remains critical to the global green energy transition.

“We all know that the green energy transition, here in Australia and around the world, is a minerals-intensive one,” she said.

“Miners must continue to advocate for the critical role minerals play in addressing climate change challenges and lead the way to a sustainable future.

“With global uncertainty and critical mineral shortages presenting challenges for the industry across multiple fronts, our report once again identifies ten key trends that will impact miners over the next 12–18 months.”