Australian exploration spending reaches seven-year high in December quarter

Mineral exploration spending in Australia rose by 2.5% in the December 2020 quarter, according to latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Total exploration expenditure in the final quarter of last year reached US$559 million – the highest quarterly sum since March 2013 – as explorers stepped up their activity to meet rising global demand for a range of metals.

The most significant spending rise was in base metals exploration, which increased by 12.5% to $121 million. Australia already has the second biggest copper resources in the world and holds more than a quarter of the global nickel supply. The country is also the world’s biggest lithium exporter.

Copper has been commonly highlighted as a strategic metal, owing to its uses in multiple clean tech industries, including wind and solar farms and electric vehicles (EV). Meanwhile, nickel and lithium are essential components in EV batteries.

In line with the global trend towards clean energy metals, total coal exploration expenditure in Australia fell by 26% to $42 million. Gold exploration spending increased marginally to $281.1 million in the quarter.

Western Australia achieved the biggest spend for the quarter at $365 million, followed by Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.