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Copper and gold are leading the charge for minerals as Queensland exploration spending hits its highest level since 2014-15.

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows the state’s total exploration expenditure for the past financial year rose by 11 per cent to reach $708 million, compared to $638 million in 2019-2020.

Queensland petroleum exploration expenditure – covering oil and gas – rose 27 per cent over the past financial year to reach $296 million, while mineral exploration expenditure increased by two per cent year-on-year to reach $412 million.

Queensland Exploration Council chair Kim Wainwright said the stand-out areas of exploration expenditure for Queensland minerals were gold, which experienced a 43 per cent jump, and copper which rose 20 per cent compared to 2019-20.

Selected base metals expenditure – which includes copper, silver, lead, zinc, nickel and cobalt – was up 10 per cent on 2019-20, although coal exploration expenditure fell by 20 per cent.

“The QEC looks forward to seeing stable growth in exploration expenditure in future quarters and this positivity reflected in our Exploration Scorecard Sentiment Survey, which will be released in December,” she said.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said very strong September and March quarters had more than made up for a slight drop in expenditure in the June quarter.
“These latest figures show our explorers have managed to continue to expand their exploration programs over the past 12 months in spite of COVID-19’s impact on their ability to recruit skilled workers and source equipment from overseas and interstate,” he said.

“This demonstrates the continuing strength and ingenuity of the resources sector, which benefits every Queenslander in terms of job opportunities and our industry’s ongoing economic contribution to the state budget.”

Nationwide minerals exploration investment increased 14 per cent to $3.2 billion in 2020-21, the highest spending since the peak of the mining boom in 2012.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive officer Tania Constable said gold exploration – up 32 per cent – had been the main driver of this growth, accounting for 48 per cent of all exploration investment in Australia last financial year.

“Attracting new exploration investment is essential to Australia’s post-COVID economic recovery – providing jobs for thousands of Australian geologists, drilling crews and laboratory workers every year – and is vital for discovering the mines that will produce minerals critical to global economic progress such as battery minerals, base metals and rare earth elements,” she said.