31/05/2022 - 16:26

COVID catches up to explorers

31/05/2022 - 16:26

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Wet weather and difficulty accessing workers curbed exploration spending in Western Australia by 13 per cent in early 2022, albeit from record investment in prior quarters.

COVID catches up to explorers
Minerals exploration expenditure fell during March. Photo: Unsplash

Wet weather and difficulty accessing workers curbed exploration spending in Western Australia by 13 per cent in early 2022, albeit from record investment in prior quarters.

New minerals exploration data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed exploration spending was down by $103 million to $848.7 million for the first three months of the year.

Western Australia contributed the majority of that total with $526.2 million, down 13 per cent from the $606.8 million spent in the previous quarter.

Though Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Warren Pearce told Business News that these figures were mostly in line with expectations.

He said March figures were usually lower due to seasonal factors, but that COVID-19-induced skills shortages also contributed.

“Omicron has impacted the ability to staff operations and access tenements,” Mr Pearce said.

“That’s caused some limitations in the sector.

“Another piece is approvals in WA and other places of Australia have been under a huge amount of pressure,” Mr Pearce said.

Spending across all commodities was lower than the December quarter, with the exception of iron ore. 

Exploration for iron ore grew by 7 per cent to $139.4 million at a national level and 3.7 per cent in WA. 

"I’d speculate that that’s been a consequence of the iron ore price," Mr Pearce said. 

"Companies have had opportunities to grow smaller iron ore projects with short term opportunities to export.

"For those companies that can be very opportune."

Looking ahead, Mr Pearce remained bullish on overall exploration spending.

“I’d still be quite confident we’d see an increase in the June quarter,” he said.

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