PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Mineral exploration activity in Western Australia has hit a five-year high, new data from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety showed.
The department recorded a five-year high in the number of programme of work (PoW) applications, with the figures for July and August indicating a record 63% increase on the monthly average.
"There's been a big spike in the number of PoW applications submitted in August, which is very positive news for the sector and Western Australia,” said Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston.
"With the record high gold price, we are seeing that gold exploration accounted for 70% of these applications, with base metals and iron-ore the next most common targets.
"These encouraging figures indicate that Western Australia's exploration sector is thriving, aided by the efforts of Streamline Western Australia.”
In August, the department received 317 POW applications and finalised 99% of PoW decisions within the new 15-business-day target.
This streamlined approval timeframe target from 30 to 15 business days was announced in February and came into effect on July 1, which was also a record month with 323 applications received.
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (Amec) said on Thursday that the increase in PoW applications was encouraging, given that the industry was initially heavily affected by the impacts of Covid-19.
“The ability of the state government to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Western Australia has provided certainty around land access. This has meant that companies were able to focus their efforts on projects in the state,” said Amec CEO Warren Pearce.
He noted that certainty around land access wasn’t the only factor in boosting exploration, as exploration across the country received a substantial increase in investment dollars.
He pointed to a BDO report which showed that there was a 60% increase in cash inflows in the June quarter with financing inflows at A$1.34-billion exceeding the five-year average. This increase was up from a four-year low of A$834-million in the March 2020 quarter.
“Twenty eight companies were able to raise funds of A$10-million or more, up from 12 companies in the March 2020 quarter, with gold companies ahead. These recent capital raisings are now translating into action on the ground.”
Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that Western Australia’s total exploration expenditure grew by A$45.3-million to A$412.4-million.
“These figures are extremely promising for mineral exploration in Western Australia and show that the industry is committed to finding new mines to deliver jobs, royalties and benefits for the local community,” said Pearce.