The countries with the top 10 exploration budgets in 2013 attracted a total of US$7.8 billion for all stages of gold, base metals, platinum group metals and uranium exploration, according to SNL Metals & Mining's annual Corporate Exploration Strategies study.
When the countries' budgets are compared with the number of significant drill results reported at their mines and projects — derived from SNL Metals & Mining's drill results data — it is evident that exploration spending in countries with the highest levels of junior activity, such as Australia, Canada and the United States, resulted in far more reported significant drill results than in countries with weaker junior sectors or reporting regimes, SNL Metals & Mining said in a release.
Market uncertainty continues to weigh heavily on the industry entering 2014. Without renewed investor interest in the coming months, the majority of junior companies and many small producers will have little choice but to further restrict their exploration efforts throughout the year. As a result, SNL Metals & Mining expects the number of reported significant drill results to decline in 2014, particularly in countries with a strong junior mining presence, such as Canada and Australia.
Examining the 351 projects that reported at least one significant drill result in 2013, primary gold projects were the most active, followed distantly by copper, nickel, uranium, zinc-lead and PGM primary projects. As reported in the CES study, companies focused their exploration programs on late-stage assets; 196 reserves development- and feasibility-stage projects had significant results, compared with 90 early-stage projects and 65 preproduction-stage and producing assets. More than 55 percent of the projects were located in the countries with the top three budgets — Australia had 90 projects, Canada had 76 and the United States had 29 — and the remainder was divided among 51 other countries.