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Resource exploration spending in Queensland increased by almost $130 million or 23 per cent in 2020 to about $680 million, according to new data.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said increased expenditure in coal, metals and gas exploration was a strong signal in the long-term confidence of the resources sector, particularly in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on sections of the economy.

“These latest exploration expenditure figures tell a very positive story about the new investment and new jobs that are going to help Queensland work and earn its way through COVID,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“These results are remarkable because just like every other industry, resources has been impacted by COVID-19.

“Many exploration and drilling companies have reported financial losses, limited access to investment capital and logistics issues due to travel restrictions, but overall the industry has continued to perform.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the overall expenditure in Queensland resources sector exploration last year was $679.4 million, which is almost $130 million above expenditure in the 2019.

“Exploration expenditure in minerals increased by 18 percent to $411.7 million in 2020 with coal, silver, lead, zinc, nickel, cobalt and gold all up,” Mr Macfarlane said.

“Exploration expenditure in petroleum, including gas, also increased by 31 percent to $267.7 million last year.”

Mr Macfarlane said the QRC and its exploration arm, the Queensland Exploration Council (QEC), had continued to work with the Queensland Government on the release of additional areas for exploration and initiatives such as the Collaborative Exploration Initiative to support continued development.

“There is no room for complacency.  The government and industry need to continue to work in partnership to grow exploration and ultimately the production investment pipeline,” he said.

Resources Minister Scott Stewart said he hoped to see exploration investment continue its upward trend in 2021 and beyond.

“In the latest budget, our government has invested more than $29 million in exploration grants, initiatives and COVID-19 support for explorers and miners over the next few years,” Mr Stewart said.

“Our budget boost for exploration will help drive future resource projects in our state and the thousands of jobs that will flow from them.”

Queensland’s resources sector supports more than 68,000 jobs across the state and represents $49 billion in exports.